WASHINGTON — President Trump declared on Thursday that “we simply took over 100 p.c” of territory managed by the Islamic State in Syria — a declare that studies from the battle entrance urged was 100 p.c unfaithful.
“You stored listening to it was 90 p.c, 92 p.c, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 p.c, we simply took over,” Mr. Trump mentioned in remarks to American troops in Alaska. “Now it’s 100 p.c, we simply took over 100 p.c caliphate. Which means the world of the land. We simply have 100 p.c.”
“In order that’s good.”
Over the previous month, American forces have been working with Syrian fighters to grab the final sq. mile of Islamic State territory — the riverside village of Baghuz on the border with Iraq. Taking and holding terrain in any army operation is usually a tough process, particularly in opposition to extremists who’re prepared to face demise as an alternative of give up.
The battle was persevering with on Thursday when officers with the Syrian Democratic Forces, an American-backed militia of Kurdish and Arab fighters, had been instructed of Mr. Trump’s announcement.
“It’s 100 p.c not true,” one senior official with the group mentioned on Thursday afternoon. “The preventing continues.”
Individually, a second official mentioned, “The battle remains to be going, and there’s no reality in that assertion.”
Each spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed by their commanders to speak to the press.
Journalists within the space additionally reported that the Islamic State had not surrendered all of its territory.
The Pentagon scrambled to meet up with Mr. Trump’s feedback and referred inquiries to the White Home. Though it’s true that the Islamic State’s management of territory has dwindled to virtually nothing over the past 12 months, Protection Division officers have been cautious of declaring victory earlier than the Syrian Democratic Forces seizes Baghuz.
Division officers not too long ago mentioned they had been near declaring an finish to the caliphate, but in addition cautioned that a couple of hurdles remained. As they take again territory from the Islamic State, the American-backed Syrian fighters should additionally sweep any buildings for suicide attackers and booby traps which were left behind — a course of that may take days.
On Thursday, Syrian Democratic Forces officers mentioned that fighters had been a couple of week away from declaring victory, with the caveat that the fragile state of affairs may change.
In feedback that weaved from Afghanistan to Syria to the recommendation he receives from his generals, Mr. Trump additionally mentioned the seize of the Islamic State’s territory occurred “in a a lot shorter time period than it was alleged to be.”
The president was returning residence from a stalled summit assembly in Vietnam with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean chief, however mentioned he couldn’t resist leaving his aircraft to reward the army throughout a refueling cease at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
Trump administration officers have been transferring nearer to publicly declaring a complete rout of the Islamic State from the land it controls. Two weeks in the past, Vice President Mike Pence mentioned on the Munich Safety Convention that “we have now one mile of territory left to seize.”
He added, “Actually inside hours or days, the ISIS caliphate will likely be no extra.”
On the identical time, the Trump administration has despatched combined messages concerning the sources it should decide to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.
In December, Mr. Trump introduced that he would withdraw all 2,000 American troops from Syria. He has since softened that to permit about 400 troops to stay, half as a part of a multinational pressure devoted to securing the nation’s northeast — an space that’s susceptible to the Islamic State.
The Pentagon additionally needs to maintain working with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who’ve borne the majority of the battle in opposition to the Islamic State.
The White Home didn’t instantly reply to a request for clarification about Mr. Trump’s feedback earlier than he boarded his aircraft to go again to Washington.