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Trump: US to fight 'IS' despite leaving Syria

February 6, 2019

President Donald Trump told representatives from 79 countries that the US would "do what it takes to defeat every ounce" of "Islamic State." He predicted the jihadist group would lose all of its territory by next week.

US Marines off-load from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter from a mission aboard the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island in the Arabian Gulf.
Image: Imago/ZUMA Press/USMC/Cpl. D. Morgan

Addressing foreign ministers and high-ranking officials from 79 countries in Washington on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured guests that the US was not abandoning the fight against the terror group "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

Many members of the US-led coalition fighting IS have continued to voice concern over Washington's role in the campaign since President Donald Trump's surprise December 19 announcement that the US would withdraw troops from Syria immediately because IS had been defeated. Though that withdrawal has yet to take place, coalition partners remain uncertain as to the future of the fight.

Trump: IS to lose all of its territory

"Rest assured, we'll do what it takes to defeat every ounce and every last person within the ISIS madness and defend our people from radical Islamic terrorism," Trump said, referring to the group's alternative acronym.

US forces had "liberated virtually all of the territory" from IS and "it should be formally announced some time next week that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate," he said.

He added that the US was looking "forward to giving our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home."

Pompeo told partners: "The US troops withdrawing from Syria is not the end of America's fight. The fight is one we will continue to wage alongside you."

'Requests are likely to come very soon'

Trump said partner countries needed to do step up their efforts, including financial support, to do their "fair share" in the fight against terrorism.

Pompeo implored allies to aid the fight by supplying funds as well as bringing home fighters jailed by Kurdish allies. He said, "We ask that our coalition partners seriously and rapidly consider requests that will enable our efforts to continue. Those requests are likely to come very soon." Speaking of the US role in the fight, Pompeo added, "America will continue to lead in giving those who would destroy us no quarter."

Some partners, such as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said that questions about the US withdrawal needed to be answered. Maas also underlined the gravity of the situation, saying: "For us it is important that there is no major military offensive, especially in the northeast and Idlib. That would cause a humanitarian disaster."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan has repeatedly threatened a military assault against the Syrian Kurds.

Islamic State still a threat

On Tuesday, General Joseph Votel, who oversees US troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that IS remains a threat, "We do have to keep pressure on this network … They have the ability of coming back together if we don't." Votel underscored the fact that IS has managed to retain its leaders, fighters and backers as well as the cash and resources it needs to keep up the insurgency.

Trump has been keen to keep his promise of withdrawing troops from unpopular missions abroad, yet military experts as well as political allies and opponents have warned about the dangers of such a move. After his December announcement on Syria, Trump's secretary of defense, James Mattis, resigned in protest to the decision, as did Brett McGurk, the top US envoy in the fight against Islamic State.

js/amp (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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