Trump: Formal announcement on reclaiming '100 percent' of ISIS territory coming soon

Trump: Formal announcement on reclaiming '100 percent' of ISIS territory coming soon

President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE said Wednesday that a formal announcement that all territory has been retaken from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will come as soon as next week.

Trump made the comment while he defended his plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria to dozens of representatives from the international members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the ISIS.

“It should be formally announced some time, probably next week, that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate, but I want to wait for the official word. I don’t want to say it too early,” Trump said in the speech at the State Department.

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“Rest assured we will do what it takes to defeat every ounce and every last person within the ISIS madness and defend our people from radical Islamic terrorism,” he added later.

Trump announced in December that he would withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, claiming ISIS had already been “defeated.” He and other administration officials later walked that statement back, saying that about 99 percent of ISIS-controlled territory had been retaken.

Trump’s speech to the 79-member coalition comes after he defended his withdrawal plans to Congress and the American people in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

“As a candidate for president, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars,” Trump said Tuesday.

The defenses come as a growing number of Trump’s own officials warn of the consequences of a withdrawal.

The top Pentagon civilian in charge of special operations said Wednesday morning that former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAmash rips Trump over move to send troops from Syria to Iraq Defense chief says US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE was not wrong to oppose the withdrawal. Mattis resigned one day after Trump announced the withdrawal.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP lawmaker: Trump administration 'playing checkers' in Syria while others are 'playing chess' Trump-Graham relationship tested by week of public sparring White House officials work to tamp down controversies after a tumultuous week MORE sought to assure members of the anti-ISIS coalition that the United States remains committed to leading the fight.

“The fight is one that we will continue to wage alongside of you,” Pompeo said at the start of the meeting. “The drawdown of troops is essentially a tactical change. It is not a change in the mission. It does not change the structure, design, or authorities on which the campaign has been based.”

Still, questions remain about specifics of the withdrawal.

In a background call Wednesday morning previewing Trump’s speech, a senior administration official said officials are continuing to work out issues including setting up a buffer zone with Turkey and what to do with foreign ISIS fighters being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

In his speech, Trump ticked off a list of ISIS’s diminished capabilities with its loss of territory, including not being able to extract natural resources, taxing citizens or stealing ancient artifacts.

But he acknowledged ISIS fighters will remain even after the territorial defeat, saying "they’re around, they’re sick, they’re demented.” 

“You can’t do better than we have militarily, but you will have people that will be around,” he said. “And we’ll search them out, and you’ll search them out, and we’ll find them, and hopefully they won’t be around very long.”