16 times Trump said ISIS was defeated, or soon would be

Screenshot/ White House

President Trump said in a statement Saturday that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been defeated, and that the U.S., as part of a coalition, “has has liberated all ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq—100 Percent of the “caliphate.”

His remarks followed comments from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders the previous day that ISIS no longer held any territory.

{mosads}Trump made a similar declaration more than three months ago. And over the following 95 days or so, Trump on 16 occasions either claimed ISIS had been defeated or would be eliminated within hours or days.

The first such declaration — Trump announced on Twitter that ISIS had been defeated and that the U.S. would withdraw almost all of its troops from Syria — prompted Secretary of Defense James Mattis to resign the following day.

With each subsequent proclamation, the Pentagon struggled to offer a response that correctly reflected the events on the ground in the war-torn country, while not directly contradicting the commander in chief.

The Pentagon has yet to make a formal declaration on the defeat of ISIS, but the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday announced a military victory over the group.

Defense officials have warned that even with a land victory, ISIS would still pose a significant threat.

Here are all the times since December that Trump has commented on the defeat of ISIS, accompanied by the Pentagon’s responses to the most forceful declarations.

Dec. 19 — Trump shocks lawmakers, Pentagon officials and world leaders when he announces on Twitter that he is withdrawing all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

{mossecondads}Later that day, Trump posts a video to Twitter saying “we have won against ISIS.”

Pentagon’s response — Caught off guard by the president’s announcement, officials only say that the military campaign against ISIS is continuing “at this time.”

Hours later, the Pentagon releases a four-sentence statement saying the coalition “has liberated the ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over.”

Dec. 22 — Trump writes on Twitter that “ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We’re coming home!”

Jan. 30 — In a series of early morning tweets, Trump pushes back on warnings from top U.S. intelligence officials about 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,” Trump writes.

Jan. 31 — While meeting with American manufacturers to sign an executive order in the Oval Office, Trump tells reporters “you’ll be seeing something next week” about “what’s happened in Syria with respect to ISIS and the caliphate.”

Feb. 1 — Trump writes on Twitter that “We will soon have destroyed 100% of the Caliphate.”

In an interview with The New York Times published the same day, Trump says “we almost have the caliphate 100 percent.”

Feb. 3 — Trump in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” says, “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate which is the area — the land, the area — 100. We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100.”

Feb. 6  Trump tells representatives of the international coalition fighting ISIS that the U.S. would announce “sometime probably next week” that the caliphate has fallen.

“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 says in the speech at the State Department.

He later says ISIS fighters will remain even after the territorial defeat.

“You can’t do better than we have militarily, but you will have people that will be around,” he says.

Feb. 10 — Trump writes on Twitter that the United States “will soon control 100% of ISIS territory in Syria.”

Feb. 11 — During a rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump says the U.S. military has “made tremendous strides” in the Middle East.

“Our brave warriors have liberated virtually 100 percent of ISIS in Iraq and Syria… Now, we’ve taken back — soon it’ll be announced soon, maybe over the next week, maybe less, but it’ll be announced very soon — we’ll have 100 percent.”

Feb. 15 — At a news conference on his national emergency declaration, Trump says “great announcements” about Syria will come within the next day.

“We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that will be announced over the next 24 hours,” Trump says in the White House Rose Garden.

Feb. 16 — Trump writes on Twitter that the United States is “pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!”

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” he says. “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them…”

Feb. 22 Following news that the administration will keep 400 troops in Syria, Trump denies the move was a reversal from his initial plan. He says an announcement will come in hours or days that ISIS is “100 percent defeated.”

“I am not reversing course” he tells reporters. “I have done something that nobody else has been able to do. In another short period of time, like hours, you’ll be hearing — hours and days — you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It’s 100 percent defeated.”

Feb. 28 — Trump tells troops during a stop at an Alaskan military base that “100 percent” of ISIS’s territory had been taken back.

“We just took over…you kept hearing 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent. We just took over 100 percent caliphate,” Trump says on a refueling stop on his way back from a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

Pentagon’s response — Officials do not confirm the president’s remarks and refer reporters back to the White House.

The top commander of the U.S.-backed SDF says that “in around one week we will declare complete victory” over ISIS.

March 2 — Trump tells attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference that officials would make the announcement “probably today or tomorrow” that “we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.”

“One hundred percent,” Trump says to applause. “We want to bring our people back home. It’s time.”

March 20 — Trump uses visual aids to argue that ISIS would lose its remaining territory in Syria “by tonight,” showing reporters a map of what he calls the success of his administration’s fight against ISIS.

One map has parts of Syria highlighted in red, parts that Trump says were held by the terrorist group on Election Day 2016. A second shows present-day Syria, with one small red spot.

“When I took it over it was a mess,” he tells reporters at the White House. “Now, on the bottom, there is no red. In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight.”

Later, during a speech at a tank plant in Lima, Ohio, Trump says “the caliphate is gone, as of tonight.”

Pentagon’s response — A day after Trump’s remarks, Charles Summers, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, won’t say whether the president’s prediction came true.

“They continue to pursue ISIS and to ensure that with our partners in the region that we eliminate their ability to reform,” Summers tells reporters at the Pentagon. “The amount of territory they held is smaller and smaller and smaller, and that’s all I have for you.”

After numerous questions from reporters as to the status of ISIS’s defeat, Summers says, “We remain committed to defeating ISIS wherever they may be.”

March 22 — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells reporters traveling aboard Air Force One that ISIS has lost all of its territory in Syria.

She adds that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan briefed Trump on the development during the flight, and that the Pentagon “made the call” that ISIS “has been eliminated” completely in Syria.

She also shows reporters a map of Syria illustrating the group’s territorial losses.

On the tarmac after the flight, Trump hands a copy of the map to reporters, saying it depicts the caliphate has been eliminated “as of last night.”

Pentagon’s response — As of Friday night, there was no official comment from the Pentagon. But a spokesman for the SDF on Saturday tweeted: “Baghouz is free and the military victory against Daesh has been achieved,” referring to the group by its Arabic acronym. The White House later issued Trump’s statement declaring victory.

Tags Donald Trump ISIS James Mattis Patrick Shanahan

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video