Trump hails liberation of Raqqa as ‘critical breakthrough’ in anti-ISIS campaign

Trump hails liberation of Raqqa as ‘critical breakthrough’ in anti-ISIS campaign
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President Trump announced Saturday that U.S.-backed forces had liberated "the entire" city of Raqqa in northern Syria, hailing it as a "critical breakthrough" in the international campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"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. Together, our forces have liberated the entire city from ISIS control," Trump said in a statement, using an alternate spelling of the city.

"The defeat of ISIS in Raqqah represents a critical breakthrough in our worldwide campaign to defeat ISIS and its wicked ideology. With the liberation of ISIS’s capital and the vast majority of its territory, the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight," he added.

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U.S.-backed militias on Friday had declared "total liberation" of Raqqa from ISIS after Syrian factions battled for 130 days to force the militant group from the city.

Trump said Saturday that the U.S. military would enter "a new phase," focused on supporting local security forces, deescalating violence across Syria and advancing "the conditions for lasting peace."

"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 said.

Trump noted that defeating ISIS and its "spread of hateful ideology" was a major campaign pledge, while arguing that efforts in the first nine months of his presidency outpaced those in the final years of the Obama administration. 

"We have made, alongside our coalition partners, more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years," Trump asserted.

The U.S.-backed forces had said on Tuesday that they had taken control of Raqqa from ISIS, with celebrations erupting in the city.

Still, U.S. Central Command stopped short of declaring victory then, saying that "more than 90 percent" of the city was in the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.-backed group of Syrian Kurds and Arabs.