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Trump’s Muslim friends don’t support his immigration ban proposal

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New York: Republican front-runner Donald Trump has said that while his Muslim friends do not support his proposal to ban Muslim immigration to the United States, they are glad the former has broached the issue of Islamic fundamentalism.

Trump made these remarks during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper which was aired on Sunday.

“I have many friends that are Muslims, and I will tell you, they are so happy that I did this because they know they have a problem,” Trump said.

When asked if they (Trump’s Muslim friends) support a ban on Muslims entering the US? Trump said, “No, they said it’s about time that somebody spoke up as to radicalism… You have radicalism in this country. It’s here, and it’s trying to come through.”

Emphasize his Muslim friends’ concern about terrorism, he said, “When my friends call me up, and they call me up very strongly, and they say — these are Muslims — and they say, ‘It’s something, Donald, that has to be talked about.”

“But they don’t support the ban?” the interviewer asked.

“Not really. I mean, why would they support the ban?” Trump replied, adding that “But without the ban, you’re not going to make the point. You’re not going to be able to make the point.”

“Again, my relationship with the Muslim community is excellent. I’ve had people call me at the highest level saying, ‘You’re doing us a favor’ because they know they have a problem very well. They really know they have a problem,” Trump said.

Trump’s proposal to ban the entry of Muslim in the US has drawn flak from various quarters.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even rejected “Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims.” Netanyahu’s statement apparently made Trump to cancel his planned trip to Israel.

When asked about Netanyahu condemnation, Trump said, “They’re not distancing themselves. I had a meeting with Natanyahu. I could be at the meeting right now.”

“He did (condemn my remarks), and that was sort of interesting. He modestly condemned them, and I thought it was sort of inappropriate that he condemned them, but that’s OK. He wanted to condemn them, that’s what he does. OK? But we have a problem,” Trump said.

“I’m not looking to be politically correct. I’m doing this to do the right thing. This and other things. When I say this — I’m running to do the right thing. I’m doing the right thing. Our country has a problem. People are in fear. They’re waiting for the next attack.”

Trump said he wished to discover from where this “total hatred” for the US was emanating and why.

“We want to find out what’s going on. Here’s what I want to ask: Why is there such hatred? Why is there such death? Where does this hatred come from?” Trump asked, adding, “I want to at least know where it’s coming from. Why is it happening? And it’s from a group of people. It’s from a specific group of people. OK? Why is there such total hatred?”

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Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave.

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FILE - U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters sit atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Fighters and families with the Islamic State terror group are clinging to one last sliver of land next to the Euphrates River in Syria, using women, children and possible hostages as human shields in an effort to postpone defeat.

Human rights observers and officials with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say IS followers have been pushed out of the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz and taken refuge in what they describe as a collection of tents. Various officials have described the size of the camps as covering less than one square kilometer.

But efforts by the SDF to deal a final defeat to the terror group’s self-declared caliphate have been slowed due to the presence of the civilians, and efforts to negotiate a surrender have also gone nowhere.

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President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House, Feb. 15, 2019. VOA

Speaking at the White House on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that’ll be announced over the next 24 hours and many other things.”

In Munich, the top U.S. defense official offered a cautious assessment.

“We have eliminated the group’s hold on over 99 percent of the territory it once claimed as part of its so-called caliphate,” acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said during a Friday news conference with his German counterpart at the Munich Security Conference.

“We have ensured ISIS no longer holds the innocent people of Syria or Iraq in their murderous, iron fist,” he said, using an acronym for the terror group. “We have destroyed its ability to mass forces, and we have eliminated most of its leadership and significantly diminished its resources.”

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FILE – Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

‘Despicable and ghastly acts’

Coalition officials Thursday described SDF efforts in and around Baghuz as “clearance operations,” warning that IS fighters had become so desperate that they were shooting at their wives and children as they sought to flee.

“These utterly despicable and ghastly acts further illustrate their barbaric nature and desperation,” Operation Inherent Resolve Deputy Commander, British Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, said in a statement.

“The end of the physical caliphate is at hand,” he added.

Some IS followers appear to have given up.

Monitors with the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 240 IS fighters surrendered this past week. The U.S.-led coalition and an SDF commander contacted by VOA could not confirm the claim.

They said the SDF also evacuated about 700 people, mostly women and children, from the terror group’s refuge outside Baghuz on Thursday, taking them by cars and trucks to secured areas away from the front.

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FILE – Women and children fleeing from the last Islamic State group’s tiny pocket in Syria sit in the back of a truck near Baghuz, eastern Syria, Feb. 11, 2019. VOA

The SDF itself says over the past several weeks, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from IS.

But they say about 300 hardened IS fighters, many of them foreign, still remain, willing to fight to the death. And some SDF commanders say more civilians are being brought to the tent city, apparently from underground tunnels.

Observers late Thursday reported a resumption of shelling by the SDF and coalition forces, saying it appeared to be another attempt to convince the remaining IS holdouts to give up.

IS threat to remain

Still, even once the last pocket of IS-held territory is taken, U.S. and coalition officials warn the fight will not be over.

Top U.S. military officials have warned the terror group still has 20,000 to 30,000 followers, including fighters, spread across Syria and Iraq. And they worry about the ability of their Syrian partners, in particular, to keep IS in check once U.S. troops withdraw under plans announced by Trump.

The commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, Central Command Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, told CNN on Friday he disagreed with Trump’s decision to call for U.S. forces to leave.

 

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FILE – U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, speaks to reporters during an unannounced visit to a military outpost in southern Syria, Oct. 22, 2018. VOA

“It would not have been my military advice at that particular time. … I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,” he said. “[The caliphate] still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network.”

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave. But so far, other coalition members, many of whom have no troops on the ground in Syria, have been unwilling to make any specific commitments.

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“I think there’s a tremendous desire to have a security arrangement or mechanism that doesn’t result in a security vacuum. What that is … is still being developed,” a senior defense official said Friday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

“We’ve been pretty clear that this is going to be a deliberate withdrawal,” the official added. “There’s a timeline associated with that that’s conditions-based. We’ve said publicly on a number of occasions that it will be here in months, not weeks and not years.” (VOA)