President Donald Trump applauded the capture of the Islamic State’s capital Raqqa in Syria in a statement Saturday afternoon.
“I am pleased to announce that the Syrian Democratic Forces, our partners in the fight against ISIS in Syria, have successfully recaptured Raqqah – the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital city,” Trump said. “Together, our forces have liberated the entire city from ISIS control.”
“The defeat of ISIS in Raqqah represents a critical breakthrough in our worldwide campaign to defeat ISIS and its wicked ideology,” Trump added. “With the liberation of ISIS’s capital and the vast majority of its territory, the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight.”
Trump’s announcement comes a day after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officially declared victory. The victory ceremony took place in Raqqa’s stadium, the same place where ISIS fighters made a last stand. Some of these fighters are believed to still be hiding in tunnels throughout the city. Now that the city is in SDF hands, the next task is to clear Raqqa of explosives and give control over to local civilian leaders.
“One of my core campaign promises to the American people was to defeat ISIS and to counter the spread of hateful ideology,” Trump said. “That is why, in the first days of my Administration, I issued orders to give our commanders and troops on the ground the full authorities to achieve this mission. As a result, ISIS strongholds in Mosul and Raqqah have fallen. We have made, alongside our coalition partners, more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years.”
The announcement also ushers in a new phase of the campaign focused on a political transition. Although the Trump administration at one point appeared to be uninterested in forcing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has since clarified that he sees no role for Assad in governing Syria.
“Together, with our allies and partners, we will support diplomatic negotiations that end the violence, allow refugees to return safely home, and yield a political transition that honors the will of the Syrian people,” Trump stated.
At this point, the only territory left that ISIS controls in Syria is a small area by the Euphrates River.
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