President Donald Trump Saturday, worded 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, Politico reports.
“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.
This 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.
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