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Iraqi forces retake last ISIS-held town

Iraqi forces retake last ISIS-held town
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Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook the last town in the country held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Iraqi and coalition officials said Friday.

“I congratulate our heroic forces and the Iraqi people on the liberation of Rawa,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement. “The success of our forces, in record time and with excellent planning, shows their strength.”

Now, all that remains of ISIS’s holdings in Iraq are patches of desert along the border with Syria.

Al-Abadi said forces are continuing to secure the border area.

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“Total victory is near,” he said.

The U.S.-led coalition likewise celebrated the victory in Rawa.

“Daesh crumbles!” Operation Inherent Resolve wrote on Twitter, using an alternate name for ISIS.

ISIS swept into Iraq in 2014, taking large swaths of territory in the north and west, including Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul.

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Iraqi forces backed by the coalition retook Mosul earlier this year and have since routed ISIS from the remaining towns it held.

“Since ISIS' defeat in Mosul, Iraqi Security Forces have walloped Daesh in every battle...rolled right over them. ISIS demoralized, quitting, and it shows. This is an important milestone, but still work to be done to KEEP Daesh gone!” coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon wrote on Twitter.

The U.S.-led coalition and its allies in Syria also continue to battle ISIS after the loss of its former capital of Raqqa in October.

Various forces in Syria, including the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the Russian-backed Syrian government, are converging in the Middle Euphrates River Valley to clear ISIS there.

Pentagon officials have described recent victories as an inflection point and warned that the threat posed by ISIS remains.

“With the fall of the caliphate, there's more pressure on ISIS to stage things,” chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said at a briefing Thursday. “So again, even though we've been very successful, this is an inflection point. There's more pressure. There still is the threat of foreign fighters. So, again, we have to defeat ISIS, and the caliphate is falling fast, but we still have to remember that ... this is a long-term struggle.” 

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE also said this week to expect U.S. troops to stay in Syria until a political process to resolve that country’s civil war starts.

“That's our goal right now, to continue until ISIS is extinguished,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon. “But we're not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has cracked. That doesn't mean everyone stays there. That doesn't mean for certain troops are leaving.”