- The president claimed on Dec. 19 that ISIS has been defeated as a justification to pull-out of Syria.
- The latest military airstrike data appears to contradict Trump’s claims, which he later walked back, that ISIS is defeated.
- Between Dec. 16 and Dec. 29, the US military and its coalition partners conducted 469 strikes on ISIS targets, according to an Operation Inherent Resolve press release.
- Those strikes appear to be part of an uptick in strikes on extremists in Iraq and Syria.
As the president declared victory over the Islamic State last month, the US military and its coalition partners dropped hundreds of bombs on ISIS militants.
In justifying the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Syria, President Donald Trump tweeted a video message on Dec. 19, declaring, “We have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And, now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
Between Dec. 16 and Dec. 29, coalition forces conducted 469 strikes in Syria, engaging more than six hundred ISIS fighters and destroying and damaging dozens of facilities and fighting positions, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve revealed Friday.
These strikes appear to be part of a larger uptick in strikes on ISIS in Syria that began last summer, as the number of bombs dropped on ISIS in Iraq and Syria rose from 241 in July to 876 in October, the US Air Forces Central Command Combined Air Operations Center introduced in its latest report.
Amid criticism from lawmakers and foreign policy experts from both sides of the aisle, Trump walked back his declaration of victory one day later, arguing that other countries should take up the fight against ISIS.
“Do we want to be there forever?” the president tweeted. “Time for others to finally fight.”
In a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump said proudly, “We’re hitting the hell out of them, the ISIS people … we’re down to final blows.”
ISIS is believed to still have tens of thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, although these numbers are difficult to confirm. The administration has argued that the campaign against ISIS will continue, just without US troops in Syria. Confusion abounds about the scale and types of missions the US will continue against ISIS.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who initially called plans for a withdrawal an “Obama-like mistake,” has since suggested that Trump understands that there is more to do before the US packs up and heads out. “He promised to destroy ISIS,” the South Carolina lawmaker said Sunday, “He’s going to keep that promise. We’re not there yet, but as I said today, we’re inside the 10-yard line and the president understands the need to finish the job.”
Some experts see the imminent US withdrawal as a strategic victory for US adversaries like Iran, Syria’s Assad regime and Russia.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, refusing to give a timetable for withdrawal, said Wednesday that “our troops are coming out,” but he insisted that the campaign to defeat ISIS would continue.
“The President also made very clear that we needed to continue the counter-ISIS campaign, and we needed to continue to ensure that we did the things to create stability throughout the Middle East. The counter-Iran campaign continues. We’ll do all of those things. We’ll continue to achieve those outcomes. We will simply do it at a time when the American forces have departed Syria,” the secretary explained.
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