Trump pushes back on intel chiefs: ISIS ‘will soon be destroyed’

Trump pushes back on intel chiefs: ISIS ‘will soon be destroyed’
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpCummings says Ivanka Trump not preserving all official communications Property is a fundamental right that is now being threatened 25 states could see severe flooding in coming weeks, scientists say MORE in a series of early morning tweets on Wednesday pushed back on warnings from his own top intelligence officials about the stark threats still posed by ISIS, saying the "caliphate will soon be destroyed.”

“When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant. Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago,” the president said.

The comments come a day after the country’s top intelligence officials testified in front of Congress and presented a report analyzing the threats facing the nation. While Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE and CIA Director Gina Haspel said the U.S. had made significant gains against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the report says that alleviating pressure on the terrorist organization could allow it to regroup. 

“The group will exploit any reduction in [counterterrorism] pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities, such as media production and external operations,” the report states. 

The report also warned that ISIS is still likely to try to attack the United States. 

“ISIS very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States,” it said.

“ISIS will continue to be a threat to the United States, and we’re going to have to continue to keep our eyes on that ... as the realization that this terrorism threat is going to continue for some time,” Coats added.

Trump raised eyebrows among the intelligence community last year when he announced that the U.S. would begin a military withdrawal from Syria after claiming victory over ISIS. The decision led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief under investigation over Boeing ties | Trump uses visual aids to tout progress against ISIS | Pentagon, Amnesty International spar over civilian drone deaths Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing Overnight Defense: Judge says Trump can't implement transgender policy | Trump floats admitting Brazil to NATO | Mattis returning to Stanford MORE and other officials, as well as criticism from GOP lawmakers who suggested it could provide an opportunity for ISIS to regain losses and ramp up the fight against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in a Syrian town that killed four Americans shortly after Trump made his announcement. Experts have pointed to the attack as showing that ISIS remains a persistent threat in the region.

Trump on Wednesday also defended other foreign policy stances that his intelligence officials appeared to contradict one day earlier.

He praised the efforts his administration has made in negotiating North Korea’s denuclearization, saying they had made a “big difference.”

“North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization,” he tweeted. 

“Time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen. Now a whole different story. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made-big difference!”

Coats, however, suggested on Tuesday that the chances of full North Korean denuclearization, the focal point of the U.S. negotiation position, appeared slim.

"We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival," Coats testified.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are expected to meet for a second summit next month to further discuss North Korea’s nuclear program. While Trump has cited progress regarding a pause in missile testing and the returning of U.S. hostages, evidence has emerged of new missile sites in the isolated nation and there have been no moves to suggest the dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal has begun.

Trump on Wednesday also teased the possible success of peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting. Fighting continues but the people of Afghanistan want peace in this never ending war. We will soon see if talks will be successful?” he tweeted.

However, the prospect was met with skepticism on Capitol Hill Tuesday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRock the Vote President says Dem reform bill 'shines a light' on dark money The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans Trump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP MORE (R-Ky.)  warning against a “precipitous withdrawal.”