Trump says Daesh no longer holds any territory in Syria

US President Donald Trump steps from Air Force One as he arrives in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday. — Reuters

PALM SPRINGS, Florida — US President Donald Trump said on Friday that US-backed forces had dislodged Daesh (the so-called IS) from its last holdout in Syria.

“Here’s ISIS on Election Day. And here’s ISIS right now,” Trump said, using the acronym for the group, as he displayed a before-and-after map to reporters, with the “before” portion full of red dots and the after-map empty.

“You guys can have the map. Congratulations,” Trump said. “I think it’s about time.” The president has previously displayed a map illustrating the diminution of Daesh.

Trump has said Daesh no longer holds territory several times over the past few weeks. But US officials said that fighting still continued late into Thursday between US-backed forces and Daesh militants in the last remaining territory it holds.

Earlier on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Daesh no longer held any territory in Syria and that US acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had briefed the president on the milestone as he was traveling to Florida on Air Force One.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battled Daesh militants holed up in the Baghouz area overnight, supported by US-led coalition air strikes, the SDF said, seeking to defeat the last pockets of militant resistance.

The SDF has been battling for weeks to defeat Daesh in the Baghouz enclave in southeastern Syria at the Iraqi border, all that remained of the territory the militants ruled, which once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq.

While the US-backed SDF has captured most of the area, Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, said SDF fighters were clashing late on Thursday with Daesh militants in more than two positions where they were refusing to surrender. — Reuters