President Donald Trump says recapture of all Islamic State land is imminent
PRESIDENT Donald Trump has said he expects to be able to announce next week that the US and coalition partners have reclaimed 100% of the Islamic State caliphate.
Mr Trump said on Wednesday that the US military will be giving him official notice very soon that 100% of the territory once held by the IS group has been retaken in Iraq and Syria.
He made the remarks at the State Department to foreign ministers and senior officials from a 79-member US-led coalition battling the IS group.
"It should be formally announced sometime, probably next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate," he said.
In December, Mr Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000-plus US troops from Syria.
US officials say IS has lost 99.5% of its territory and is holding on to fewer than two square miles in Syria in the villages of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated.
But there are fears the impending US pullout will imperil those gains.
Mr Trump told coalition members meeting at the State Department that while "remnants" of the group were still dangerous, he was determined to bring US troops home. He called on coalition members to step up and do their "fair share" in the fight against terrorism.
Even as Mr Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the withdrawal decision, which shocked US allies and led to the resignations of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and the US envoy to the anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk, some military leaders renewed their concerns.
While the withdrawal would fulfil a Trump goal, top military officials have pushed back for months, arguing IS remains a threat and could regroup.
US policy had been to keep troops in place until the extremists are completely eradicated.
Fears that IS fighters are making a strategic manoeuvre to lay low ahead of the US pullout has fuelled criticism that Mr Trump telegraphed his military plans – the same thing he accused President Barack Obama of doing in Afghanistan.
A United Nations report circulated on Wednesday said Islamic State extremists "continue to pose the main and best-resourced international terrorist threat".
It said IS fighters remain under "intense military pressure" in their stronghold in eastern Syria, but they have "shown a determination to resist and the capability to counter-attack".
Defence officials believe many fighters have fled to ungoverned spaces and other pockets in the north and west.