Secretary of Defense James Mattis touted the rapid success of the U.S.-backed military campaign against the Islamic State to reporters en-route to Egypt Saturday.
“The enemy is collapsing. In many cases, faster than many people in the media forecasted,” Mattis declared. “You know, I always stayed away from timelines for this very reason. It’s usually slower or faster than any timeline.”
Mattis has consistently been reluctant to put a timeline on the U.S. military presence in Syria, but highlighted the recent withdrawal of approximately 400 Marines from the country after successful operations against ISIS. The 400 Marines are being sent back to the U.S. after supporting the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in their military campaign against ISIS.
ISIS has lost nearly all of its major territory in Iraq and Syria in recent months. The group no longer controls any major city in Iraq and is largely isolated to a desert pocket in Syria, surrounded by various hostile militaries.
The defense secretary also confirmed that U.S. arms and support will begin to cease to Kurdish groups inside Syria which have largely born the brunt of the fight against ISIS. Many of these Kurdish groups were affiliate with the Syrian Democratic Forces much to the chagrin of U.S. ally Turkey who regard some of the militias as terrorist groups.
The decision to stop arming the Kurds was revealed by President Donald Trump Nov 25 after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“President Trump also informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return,” the White House said in a statement after the call.
Mattis buttressed this statement saying “we’re going to go exactly along the lines of what the president announced.”
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