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 TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation 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 CoatsHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter This week: Democrats churn toward next phase of impeachment fight 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. 

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“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.

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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: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court Former Mattis staffer: Trump 'shooting himself in the foot' on foreign policy 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 McConnellKavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE (R-Ky.)  warning against a “precipitous withdrawal.”