Secretary Rex Tillerson said the fall of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa, Syria was accelerated by “critical decisions” made by President Donald Trump. Earlier this week, Brigadier Gen. Talal Sillo announced “the capital of terrorism” and had fallen to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
In a long statement emailed to People’s Pundit Daily (PPD), Secretary Tillerson congratulated the SDF on the liberation of Raqqa, including the Syrian Arab Coalition. But he stressed it was the result of a months-long strategy put together by the Trump Administration, which reversed Barack Obama’s “degrade and destroy” policy of containment in favor of “destroy.”
“In January, ISIS was actively plotting terrorist attacks against our allies and our homeland in Raqqa,” Secretary Tillerson noted. “Nine short months later, it is out of ISIS’s control due to critical decisions President Trump made to accelerate the campaign.”
Under Mr. Obama, ISIS enjoyed significant military and strategic gains on and off the battlefield, capturing large swathes of territory in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. At its height, the self-proclaimed caliphate was the size of the United Kingdom (UK).
Under President Trump, supporting U.S. military forces, the Kurds and other opposition fighters have been given more leeway, even as the President put an end to convert operations by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Syria. With a new U.S. president at the helm, the SDF launched an offensive in June against Raqqa and other remaining strongholds.
The fall of the self-proclaimed caliphate’s capital on the banks of the Euphrates River is a major blow to the militant terror army, which lost Mosul in Iraq a few months ago. The secretary of state said the Trump Administration’s goal is to stabilize the nation so that refugees and other displaced Syrians can return home.
“Over the last seven months, millions of people have been liberated from ISIS’s brutal rule and working with our partners on the ground we are setting the conditions to enable people to return home.”
A U.S. Pentagon spokesperson told PPD that they assess roughly 90% of the former ISIS stronghold and capital of the Islamic caliphate has been recaptured, though some fighting continued. The officials also said that U.S. airstrikes had been pounding ISIS’ positions during the previous 24 hours before the assault.
While Mr. Tillerson said the United States (US) is “proud to lead the 73-member Global Coalition” against “ISIS’s so-called caliphate” across Iraq and Syria, he warned their “work is far from over.” He said the fall of Raqqa “marks the beginning of a new phase” in the strategy “to de-escalate violence across Syria.”
“ISIS’s loss of Raqqa does not mean our fight against ISIS is over,” he added. “The Global Coalition will continue to draw on all elements of national power – military, intelligence, diplomacy, economic, law enforcement, and the strength of our communities – until all Syrians have been liberated from ISIS brutality and we can ensure that it can no longer export its terror around the world.”
FULL STATEMENT BY REX TILLERSON
We congratulate the Syrian people and the Syrian Democratic Forces, including the Syrian Arab Coalition, on the liberation of Raqqa. The United States is proud to lead the 73-member Global Coalition that supported this effort, which has seen ISIS’s so-called caliphate crumble across Iraq and Syria. Our work is far from over but the liberation of Raqqa is a critical milestone in the global fight against ISIS, and underscores the success of the ongoing international and Syrian effort to defeat these terrorists.
In January, ISIS was actively plotting terrorist attacks against our allies and our homeland in Raqqa. Nine short months later, it is out of ISIS’s control due to critical decisions President Trump made to accelerate the campaign. Over the last seven months, millions of people have been liberated from ISIS’s brutal rule and working with our partners on the ground we are setting the conditions to enable people to return home.
We cannot forget that this accomplishment also came at significant costs. The Syrian Democratic Forces suffered many losses along the way and we join them in mourning the lives lost. We also mourn the U.S. service members, and others from the Coalition, who made the ultimate sacrifice of giving their life to rid the region of ISIS and protect our homeland.
ISIS cruelty and barbarity cannot be overstated. We witnessed ISIS deliberately and consistently using civilians as human shields and leaving behind mines to maim and kill children and other civilians seeking only to return to their homes or schools. The barbaric nature of ISIS’s tactics left many scars and we are supporting stabilization efforts in liberated areas to help these communities heal.
While we continue the fight to ensure ISIS is defeated militarily where it remains in Syria, the U.S. and other Coalition members are making every effort to remove explosives left by ISIS and to get critical humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations. We are also supporting the efforts of the Raqqa Civil Council and other local Syrian actors to re-establish basic security and deliver essential services to stabilize communities, refurbish schools, and help facilitate the safe and voluntary return home of displaced Syrians.
This also marks the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian conflict. As we and our partners push toward the territorial defeat of ISIS, we will continue to seek to de-escalate violence across Syria. Reducing violence in Syria will allow the United States, our allies, and partners to focus even more on advancing UN-led diplomatic efforts, within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, aimed at reaching a genuine political transition that honors the will of the Syrian people.
ISIS’s loss of Raqqa does not mean our fight against ISIS is over. The Global Coalition will continue to draw on all elements of national power – military, intelligence, diplomacy, economic, law enforcement, and the strength of our communities – until all Syrians have been liberated from ISIS brutality and we can ensure that it can no longer export its terror around the world. The Coalition will continue its relentless campaign to deny ISIS safe haven anywhere in the world, and sever its ability to recruit, move foreign terrorist fighters, transfer funds, and spread false propaganda over the internet and social media. We are confident that we will prevail and defeat this brutal terrorist organization.