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US-backed forces to begin ‘last battle’ against ISIS



The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will start an assault on Saturday against Islamic State’s last enclave in the part of Syria where the U.S.-led coalition has been supporting operations against the group, an SDF official told Reuters.

“The battle will be launched this evening and its mission will be to eliminate the last remnants of the terrorist organization,” Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF media office, said, describing it as the “last battle”.

He said in the last 10 days SDF fighters had handled the battle “patiently” as civilians were evacuated from the besieged enclave comprising two villages near the Iraqi border. More than 20,000 had been evacuated, he said.

President Donald Trump, repeating a variation of an earlier statement by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, predicted earlier this week that the US military and its coalition partners will have successfully liberated all ISIS-controlled territory.

“Over the past two years we have retaken 20,000 square miles of land; we have seen victory after victory after victory,” the president said, “We have retaken both Mosul and Raqqa. We’ve eliminated more than 60 high-value ISIS leaders. Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters are gone. They’re gone.”

Trump admitted, though, that there may always be remnants of the terrorist organization even after the physical caliphate has been destroyed.

“You’re always going to have some people,” he explained to representatives from the global coalition to defeat ISIS. “They’re around, they’re sick, they’re demented. But you can’t do better than we have militarily.”

While the US and its coalition and regional partners have hammered ISIS east of the Euphrates River, the terrorist organization is believed to still have a foothold west of the river, in territory controlled by the Syrian regime and its allies.

Reuters contributed to this report

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