Allies balk as Trump proclaims ’100 percent’ victory over ISIS in Syria
President Trump for the first time Thursday claimed that Islamic State’s once-vast holdings in Syria have been “100 percent” recaptured, even though America’s local Kurdish and Arab allies say the final victory is still a long ways off.
“You kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent of the caliphate [defeated] in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent,” Mr. Trump said in an impromptu press conference during a refueling stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska Thursday
The president was traveling back to Washington after the abrupt end of his nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam. ISIS fighters have been defending a tiny sliver of territory around the Syrian village of Baghouz near the border with Iraq, and the Pentagon has said their defeat is just a matter of time.
But fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition of Arab and Kurdish militias who have been battling ISIS since 2015, say any declaration of victory over ISIS is premature.
“Trump’s ignorance [about] the conditions on the ground re the battle against ISIS is abhorrent. There are still civilians coming out of Baghouz, where [Islamic State] is holding its last sliver of territory,” said SDF spokesman Zana Amedi on social media Thursday.
Mr. Amedi said SDF troops were still evacuating civilians from Baghouz the small enclave near Deir-e-Zourwhere the majority of the fighting has taken place over the last several weeks.