Mr Trump has made it clear that he is very optimistic that the Islamic State group is about to be effectively removed from its remaining territorial holdings. In his most recent statements on the subject he declared:
“The United States military, our coalition partners and the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It should be announced, probably sometime next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate. Their land is gone, it’s a big factor – their land is gone. The Isis caliphate has been decimated. We look forward to giving our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home. “
The last IS territory is centred upon a village called Baghuz, an area of about 4sq km. According to reports, locals have been leaving in large numbers, presumably fearful of a last stand being made by the 1000-plus IS fighters left in the village.
Mr Pompeo, Mr Trump’s Secretary of State, was somewhat less optimistic about the prospects of ridding the world of IS. He made it clear that he does not view the destruction of the last territorial holding as being the end and warned the Coalition partners that they must continue to fight IS in different ways. He explained:
“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. The drawdown in (US) troops is essentially a tactical change, it is not a change in the mission. It simply represents a new stage in an old fight.”
More specifically, Mr Pompeo assured Mr Hakim, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, that:
“The coalition must continue to support the government of Iraq in its efforts to secure the liberated areas of that country. Mr Foreign Minister, we’re with you.”
To be fair, Mr Trump also admitted that there is a need for continued vigilance, stating that there were still: “tiny sections that can be so dangerous” and that: ”foreign fighters must not gain access” to other countries such as the US.
However, the President seemed to dismiss one major aspect of IS’ overall strategy; the use of the internet to radicalise young men around the world. In his usual style, Mr Trump summed up the internet activities of the group as follows:
“For a period of time they used the internet better than we did. They used the internet brilliantly – but now it’s not so brilliant.”
So now we know…..