Baghdad: Iraqi security forces on Friday continued their battles for the fourth consecutive day against the Islamic State (IS) militants and moved closer to the central part of Anbar’s provincial capital city of Ramadi.
Iraqi army police and anti-terrorism troops, backed by Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft, engaged in heavy clashes with IS militants in Houz district, which is adjacent to the government compound in central Ramadi, some 110 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Xinhua reported.
The troops made a significant advance and took control of large part of Houz district. The militants on Friday focused in the battles on snipers, suicide bombers, car bombs, and booby-trapped houses to hamper the troops advance.
The heavy battles in Houz district left more than 60 IS militants and 15 security members killed and some 40 others injured.
Also on Friday, Iraqi security forces repelled an IS attack on military positions in al-Mudheij area, just east of Ramadi, killing 11 IS militants who were wearing explosive vests. (IANS)
In late 2018, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw almost all of its troops from Syria, saying the Islamic State terror group had been defeated and there was no longer a reason to deploy U.S. forces in the war-torn nation.
The announcement led to the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who reportedly felt the drawdown was premature.
In the months since Trump announced the defeat of IS, he has wavered on whether the group has been vanquished. Sometimes he predicted that total victory would come in hours or days, while other times he has doubled down on the claim that the IS threat has been eliminated.
Here’s a chronology of claims concerning the demise of Islamic State.
Dec. 19, 2018 — Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House, to explain why the U.S. was pulling most of its troops out of Syria.
Dec. 22, 2018 — Trump tweets that “ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.”
Jan. 16, 2019 — Vice President Mike Pence declares in a speech at the State Department that “the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” Earlier that day, four Americans were killed in Syria by an IS suicide bomber.
Jan. 30, 2019 — Trump tweets about the “tremendous progress” made in Syria and that the IS “Caliphate will soon be destroyed.”
Feb. 1, 2019 — Trump repeats that “We will soon have destroyed 100 percent of the Caliphate.”
Feb. 3, 2019 — Trump tells CBS News, “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate, which is the area — the land, the area — 100. We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100.”
Feb. 6, 2019 — Trump predicts that the declaration that the coalition has captured all IS holdings “should be formally announced sometime, probably next week.”
Feb. 10, 2019 — Trump tweets that the U.S. will control all former IS territory in Syria “soon.”
Feb. 11, 2019 — At a rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump says the announcement that 100 percent of Islamic State territory has been captured will be coming “maybe over the next week, maybe less.”
Feb. 15, 2019 — At a news conference Trump says a statement about “our success with the eradication of the caliphate … will be announced over the next 24 hours.”
Feb. 16, 2019 — Trump tweets, “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!”
Feb. 22, 2019 — Trump tells reporters “In another short period of time, like hours — you’ll be hearing hours and days — you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It will — it’s 100 percent defeated.”
Feb. 28, 2019 — In a speech to U.S. troops in Alaska, Trump says, “We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent we just took over, 100 percent caliphate.”
March 2, 2019 — At a conference, Trump tells attendees, “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.”
March 20, 2019 — Trump shows reporters a map that plots the territory still held by the Islamic State in Syria and promises that area “will be gone by tonight.”
Meanwhile, U.S. military officials, as well as members of the coalition actively fighting the terror group, have been reluctant to predict when final victory will be declared. Some also note that even when IS no longer controls any territory, fighters who escaped capture and are hiding within civilian populations could still pose a security threat. (VOA)