Pence says 'ISIS has been defeated' hours after attack that killed US troops in Syria

Vice President Pence declared Wednesday that "ISIS has been defeated," hours after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for an attack in Syria that killed U.S. troops.

"Thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we’re now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners, and we are bringing out troops home," Pence said at a State Department event in Washington, D.C.

"The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated," he added in remarks at the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference, prompting applause in the room.


He added that the U.S. would remain in the region to "protect the gains" made by the coalition to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

Pence released a new statement on Wednesday afternoon condemning the attack. 

"Thanks to the courage of our Armed Forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities," he said. "As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate — not now, not ever."

The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS confirmed Wednesday morning that American service members were killed during an explosion in the town of Manbij.

ISIS took credit for the attack through its Amaq news agency, which said an attacker used an explosives-laden vest to target coalition forces.

Trump tweeted on Dec. 19 that the U.S. had "defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there." He posted a video the same day in which he said troops in the war-torn country are "all coming back and they're coming back now."

The move appeared to catch allies off guard. U.S. lawmakers warned that ISIS had not been fully defeated, and that an American withdrawal could lead to the group's resurgence.

The president and administration officials have since tempered their language surrounding the withdrawal from Syria. National security adviser John Bolton earlier this month said the U.S. would not fully leave the country without the total defeat of ISIS and assurances from Turkey that it will not target U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSondland brings impeachment inquiry to White House doorstep Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Senate eyes sending stopgap spending bill back to House | Sondland delivers bombshell impeachment testimony | Pentagon deputy says he didn't try to block official's testimony Five bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony MORE said Sunday that the U.S. mission in the region is still the same, calling the withdrawal announcement a "tactical change." 

This story was updated at 2:33 p.m.