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Trump: End of ISIS caliphate 'in sight' with Raqqa victory

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The president noted that one of his “core” 2016 campaign promises was to knock out ISIS

President Donald Trump took another victory lap Saturday for his administration’s role supporting the U.S.-backed allies who earlier in the week captured a key Syrian city that had been the de facto capital for Islamic State militants.

“The defeat of ISIS in Raqqah represents a critical breakthrough in our worldwide campaign to defeat ISIS and its wicked ideology,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. “With the liberation of ISIS’s capital and the vast majority of its territory, the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight.”

Trump in his statement claimed credit for the latest advances made by the Kurdish-led group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, who on Friday held a news conference in Raqqa declaring it free of extremists and officially handed over its administration to a council of local officials and tribal leaders.

The president noted that one of his “core” 2016 campaign promises was to knock out ISIS, and military orders issued in his first days in office had given U.S. commanders and troops “the full authorities to achieve this mission.”

“We have made, alongside our coalition partners, more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years,” Trump said.

Trump’s statement Saturday celebrating a major win against ISIS in Syria gives him a chance to move away from the multiple controversies that have swirled all week around the White House stemming from an erroneous claim that other presidents didn’t make calls to the families of U.S. service members killed on duty.

Still, even his ISIS claims have sparked dispute. Trump on Tuesday said in an interview with radio host Charles Plante that he had “totally changed the rules of engagement” with ISIS and that the militants were “now giving up.”

“They’re giving up, they’re raising their hands, they’re walking off. Nobody’s ever seen that before,” Trump said.

Asked to explain why the gains against ISIS had happened, he replied, “Because you didn’t have Trump as your president. I mean, it was a big difference. I mean, there’s a big, big difference if you look at the military now.”

But former Obama administration officials have taken issue with Trump’s claim that he’s responsible for changing the U.S. approach on ISIS. Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter told CNN on Friday that the plan to capture Raqqa was ordered up in 2015.

“The plan … was laid out two years ago, and has been executed pretty much in the manner and the schedule that was foreseen then,” Carter said.

In his Saturday statement, Trump said the battle against ISIS “will soon transition into a new phase” supporting local security forces that’s designed to ratchet down the violence across Syria.

Trump’s Cabinet also delivered him plaudits for the military advance.

On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson congratulated the Syrian Democratic Forces for the liberation of Raqqah and noted that ISIS was “actively plotting terrorist attacks” against the United States and its allies from the Syrian city as recently as January.

“Nine short months later, it is out of ISIS’s control due to critical decisions President Trump made to accelerate the campaign,” Tillerson said.

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Muslim Global: Trump: End of ISIS caliphate 'in sight' with Raqqa victory
Trump: End of ISIS caliphate 'in sight' with Raqqa victory
President Donald Trump took another victory lap Saturday for his administration’s role supporting the U.S.-backed allies who earlier in the week captured a key Syrian city that had been the de facto capital for Islamic State militants.
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