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Trump eyes full control of IS-held territory soon

(Xinhua)    10:11, February 07, 2019

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) would soon regain control of all of the land previously held by the group, and defended his earlier decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

While speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat IS held at the State Department, the U.S. leader said that "it should be formally announced, sometime, probably next week, that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate, but I want to wait for the official word. I don't want to say it too early."

Trump also repeated his note in Tuesday's State of the Union (SOTU) address that "the United States military, our coalition partners and the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by ISIS in Syria and Iraq."

Trump also said that member nations' cooperation are still in need to combat the IS since "remnants" of the group can be dangerous.

He reiterated that the U.S. force in Syria shall come back home and "we look forward to giving our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome-back-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, citing military progress in Syria. The decision has led to the resignation of then U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The decision has also raised eyebrows in the U.S. military. General Joseph Votel, the chief commander of U.S. Central Command, said on Tuesday that "it is important to understand that... the fight against IS and violent extremists is not over" and the IS forces have the ability of coming back.

Earlier on Wednesday in the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to reassure the coalition members by saying that "Trump's announcement that U.S. troops will be withdrawing from Syria is not the end of America's fight."

"The drawdown of troops is essentially a tactical change," he said, adding "It simply represents a new stage in an old fight... and our policy priorities in Syria have remained unchanged."

While urging to remove "all Iranian-led forces from Syria," the U.S. top diplomat also said Washington will make requests "very soon" to the coalition members regarding their military campaign in Syria.

"Now is the time for all of us - not just America - to put our money where our mouth is. Everyone should contribute," he said.

The White House also tries to dispel worries over the consequences of Trump's abrupt withdrawal decision.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, a senior administration official told the media via teleconference that Trump just "doesn't believe that the United States can solve this problem (fighting IS) externally."

"He thinks it is something we can assist with, it's something we can encourage, but that has to come from within the Muslim community," the official said. "I don't think it's accurate to say that because 2,000 troops are coming out of Northeast Syria that we are wrapping up in the Middle East."

However, the White House has shown little interests in helping Syria recover from years' conflicts.

When asked about U.S. commitment to the reconstruction in the war-torn nation after the defeat of the IS, the official noted that "we are not going to do anything in terms of reconstruction that would bolster the regime absent fairly significant political concessions on the part of Assad."

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

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