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Pence doubles down on ISIS defeat as US troops die in Syria



As reports of US casualties in Syria flowed in, Vice President Mike Pence repeated the president’s claims that ISIS in Syria has been defeated.

“The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated,” he said at the State Department on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, without offering any new evidence to support this claim that has been widely criticized by experts and military leaders — and now undermined by an attack.

But just prior to his speech, the US-led coalition in Syria said that US troops were killed in a deadly explosion in Manbij, Syria, an attack claimed by ISIS that demonstrates their seeming ability to harm US troops.

“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” Operation Inherent Resolve tweeted Wednesday.

Pence is said to have made no mention of the casualties during the Global Chiefs of Mission conference at the State Department. His press secretary tweeted that he had been briefed on the situation. “Our hearts go out to the loved ones of the fallen,” Alyssa Farah, Pence’s official press secretary, tweeted.

Initial reports suggest that at least four US service members were killed in the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State, a terrorist organization that only a few weeks had been declared “defeated” by President Donald Trump as a rationale for ordering the rapid pullout of roughly 2,000 troops serving in Syria.

“We have defeated Isis in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham — who at the time sharply criticized the president’s decision to withdraw from Syria as an “Obama-like mistake” — said Wednesday that Trump’s statements “set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting.”

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