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After Trump's SOTU speech, Pompeo tries to reassure allies of U.S. commitment to fight IS

(Xinhua)    09:21, February 07, 2019

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday tried to reassure allies and partners that Washington will continue fighting the Islamic State (IS), after U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that "virtually" all of the territory has been liberated from the IS.

Speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat IS held at the State Department, Pompeo told foreign ministers and other senior officials from 79 countries that the U.S. troop's withdrawal from Syria was not "the end of America's fight."

"The drawdown in troops is essentially a tactical change. It is not a change in the mission. It simply represents a new stage in an old fight," said the top U.S. diplomat.

While calling on the attending nations to take back and prosecute foreign fighters captured by the U.S.-led forces, he also urged the coalition members and partners to keep fighting the IS and ensure the permanent defeat of the IS group.

"To that end, we ask that our coalition partners seriously and rapidly consider requests that will enable our efforts to continue... those requests are likely to come very soon," he added, without giving further details.

U.S. State Department said on Monday that the meeting, the 10th of its kind since the coalition was founded in 2014, will focus on the resources needed and specific plans against the IS in 2019.

U.S. President Donald Trump would deliver remarks in the ministerial later at 3:00 PM local time on Wednesday. Reuters reported that he was expected to urge attendees "to stay the course and step up contributions to stabilization efforts."

In his second State of the Union (SOTU) address made on Tuesday night, Trump defended and touted his withdrawal decision, saying "great nations do not fight endless wars."

"When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria -- just two years ago. Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters," Trump said. "Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of IS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home."

The U.S.-led coalition has been engaged in an operation to drive out the IS militants from their last stronghold in the eastern Euphrates region in eastern Syria.

In December, however, Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, leading to the resignation of then U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

As controversies over the U.S. withdrawal remained undiminished, Trump's remarks concerning Iraq and Iran have also overshadowed the ministerial meeting.

During an interview with CBS television aired on Sunday, Trump reportedly said that the important role of U.S. troops in Iraq is "to watch Iran."

Trump also blasted Iran in his SOTU speech by accusing Tehran as "the world's leading state sponsor of terror" and "a radical regime."

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted hours later that "Iranians... are commemorating 40 yrs of progress despite US pressure, just as @realDonaldTrump again makes accusations against us @ #SOTU2019."

"U.S. hostility has led it to support dictators, butchers & extremists, who've only brought ruin to our region," he added.

Trump's remarks regarding Iraq has also sparked anger and rejection in the oil-rich country.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim, who also attended the Wednesday ministerial meeting, said that all countries shall respect Iraqi territorial integrity and carry out military operations in his country with the knowledge and permission of the Iraqi government, and in consultations with the Iraqi security forces.

On Monday, Iraqi President Barham Salih rejected any role for U.S. troops in Iraq beyond helping Iraq's security forces, saying that "Trump did not ask for our permission to watch Iran. Do not burden Iraq with issues that don't represent a priority to it."

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also tweeted on Monday that "Iraqi sovereignty must be respected."

"Its interests should not be compromised. Iraq should not be used as a spring board to attack its neighbours," he warned. "We are not proxies in conflicts outside the interests of our nation."

Speaking of Trump's hardline policy towards Iran, Richard Haass, head of Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S.-based think tank, tweeted that Trump confuses his view that the Iran nuke deal was a bad pact with U.S. intelligence community's judgment that Iran has been complying with it, and justifies the U.S. presence in Iraq "as aimed at Iran."

Commenting on Trump's withdrawal initiatives from Syria and possibly Afghanistan in the future, Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua in an interview after Trump's SOTU speech that "I expect a lot of pushbacks from Congress and in the Pentagon."

General Joseph Votel, the chief commander of U.S. Central Command, said on Tuesday that despite the progress of the multinational campaign against the IS in Syria, "it is important to understand that... the fight against IS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed."

The IS forces have the ability of "coming back together," he noted.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

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