Trump sees end of Islamic State caliphate | Inquirer News

Trump sees end of Islamic State caliphate

07:25 AM October 23, 2017

LIBERATED CITY The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declare the “total liberation” of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of Islamic State for more than three years. —AP

LIBERATED CITY The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declare the “total liberation” of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of Islamic State for more than three years. —AP

STERLING, Virginia — US President Donald Trump is portraying the Islamic State (IS) group’s ouster from its Syrian stronghold as a milestone in America’s fight against terrorism, a signal to an end of the IS caliphate, and a step toward a political transition and lasting peace in Syria.

Trump’s assessment, in a statement released on Saturday, runs counter to warnings in recent days from his national security aides that IS militants remain fully capable of striking American interests.


And there are no signs of an impending political transition, with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government newly strengthened.


Kurdish-led forces on Friday declared victory in Raqqa, the extremists’ self-declared capital, where they had terrorized the population for four years.

Trump called it “a critical breakthrough in our worldwide campaign to defeat IS and its wicked ideology” and said “the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight.”

He cited his efforts to empower US military forces on the ground and repeated his claim that more had been done to defeat the IS group in recent months “than in the past several years.”

‘Transition into a new phase’

The United States “will soon transition into a new phase” in Syria and offer support to local security forces, Trump said.

He said the United States would back diplomatic negotiations to end the violence, allow refugees to return safely home and “yield a political transition that honors the will of the Syrian people.”

There is no indication, however, that a political transition will come any time soon.


UN-led talks have shown no serious signs of picking up steam.

The ouster of IS forces from Raqqa and other parts of Syria has overlapped with the increased influence of Iran and Russia in the country and a stronger hand for Assad, dimming prospects even further for the type of political solution the United States has long wanted to see.

Most Raqqa residents fled long ago and are now scattered across refugee camps or abroad, and there is little for them to return to.

Reduced to rubble

The once vibrant metropolis on the Euphrates River, which has largely been reduced to rubble, is littered with land mines and booby traps.

So far, the Trump administration has shown little appetite for longer-term engagement or involvement in nation-building in Iraq and Syria.

While it will work to clear Raqqa of mines and restore basic services like water and electricity, Washington has made it evident that it has no intention of playing the leading role in rebuilding the city.

National security officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have warned that just because IS has been evicted from Raqqa, it doesn’t mean the group won’t be able to carry out attacks against the United States.

The US military this past week estimated that 6,500 IS fighters remain in eastern Syria and western Iraq, many concentrated along the Euphrates River valley straddling the border.

Those fighters pose an insurgent threat in both countries and an ideological threat globally.

Likened to Dresden

While Trump hailed the fall of Raqqa, Russia on Sunday accused the US-led coalition in Syria of having flattened the erstwhile IS stronghold with a Dresden-like bombing campaign and masking the destruction with a rush of humanitarian aid.

In a statement issued in Moscow, Russia’s defense ministry said Raqqa “inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, which was razed to the ground by Anglo-American bombings.”

“The bravura statements by official representatives of the US administration about the ‘outstanding victory’ over IS in Raqqa prompt bafflement,” the ministry said.

It accused Western countries of pumping aid into Raqqa to mask the degree of destruction inflicted on the city.

Moscow, it said, had previously received only refusals from the West to its requests for international humanitarian aid.

“There is only one [reason]—the aim is to sweep away traces of barbaric bombings by US aviation and the ‘coalition’ that buried in Raqqa’s ruins thousands of peaceful citizens ‘liberated’ from IS,” the ministry claimed.

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Russia has been carrying out a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015, when it stepped in to support President Bashar Assad’s rule and tipped the conflict in his favor. Human rights monitors say that the raids have resulted in many civilian casualties. —Reports from AP and AFP

TAGS: Bashar Assad, Donald Trump

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