Mike Pompeo: 'We've taken down 99 percent' of the ISIS caliphate – Washington Examiner

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “99 percent” of the Islamic State’s caliphate has been destroyed, reinforcing the Trump administration’s case to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria that have been working to combat the terrorist group.

“We’ve taken down 99 percent of the caliphate. Ninety-nine percent of the caliphate. That should be the first sentence in every story. Right? Everybody agree?” Pompeo told reporters as he headed to the Middle East for a week. “Anybody dispute the facts? This has been an enormously successful campaign.”

The reference to the ISIS “caliphate” regards the stretch of territory across Iraq and Syria controlled by the Sunni extremist group five years ago in which they imposed strict Islamist rule.

Pompeo also dismissed comparisons to former President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw troops in Iraq in 2011, which critics have argued fostered the rise of the Islamic State.

“I am confident we will continue to ensure that the kind of rise ISIS had under the Obama administration doesn’t occur again,” Pompeo said.

“The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is going to be with us for a while, and we’re determined to stay at it and continue to make sure that the resurgence of large land-based caliphates like ISIS don’t happen on our watch,” Pompeo said.

President Trump announced in December that ISIS had been defeated and that troops were “all coming back and they’re coming back now” — a move which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Trump has since toned down his urgency. He tweeted Monday that the U.S. will “leave at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS.”

National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that certain conditions must be met before a withdrawal can occur, stating specifically that Turkey would first need to agree to not attack Kurdish forces who have helped fight ISIS.

The Pentagon announced Monday that the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria has “approved framework for the withdrawal of forces from Syria and is now engaged in executing that withdrawal.”

“That framework is conditions-based and will not subject troop withdrawal to an arbitrary timeline,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson said.

Pompeo has embarked on an international trip that will include stops in Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, among other places.

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