WASHINGTON – The Latest on the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition (all times local):
President Donald Trump says he expects to be able to announce next week that the U.S. and coalition partners have reclaimed 100 per cent of the Islamic State caliphate.
Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. military will be giving him official notice very soon that 100 per cent of the territory once held by the IS group has been retaken in Iraq and Syria.
Trump gave remarks at the State Department to foreign ministers and senior officials from a 79-member U.S.-led coalition battling the IS group. In December, Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000-plus U.S. troops from Syria.
U.S. officials say IS has lost 99.5 per cent of its territory and is holding on to fewer than 5 square kilometres (2 square miles) in Syria, or less than 2 square miles, in the villages of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY’-oh) says American won’t cede leadership of the fight against the Islamic State group.
He tells the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition that the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria “is not a change in the mission” but a change in tactics.
Trump’s move has shocked U.S. allies and led to the resignations of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and the top U.S. envoy to the coalition.
U.S. military leaders have pushed back for months, arguing IS remains a threat and could regroup.
Foreign ministers and senior officials from the 79-member coalition are meeting in Washington to develop a way ahead.
Trump plans to urge the group later Wednesday to stay the course and step up contributions to stabilization efforts.