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Overnight Defense: Coalition carries out mop-up operations against ISIS in Syria | Trump recognizes Israeli control over Golan Heights | Pence hits 2020 Dems for skipping AIPAC
Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.
THE TOPLINE: More than four years after the first bomb dropped and about three months after President Trump first declared victory, it became official over the weekend: the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has lost all the territory it once held.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced Saturday they had finished off ISIS in its last pocket in Baghouz, bringing to an end the terrorist group's territorial control.
"Baghouz is free and the military victory against Daesh has been achieved," Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), tweeted, referring to the group by its Arabic acronym.
U.S. response: Shortly after the SDF's statement, Trump administration officials were out with celebratory statements.
"I am pleased to announce that, together with our partners in the global coalition to defeat ISIS, including the Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States has liberated all ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq--100 percent of the 'caliphate,'" Trump said in his statement.
In his own statement, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that "we are inspired by the battlefield success of the Syrian Democratic Forces."
"Now is an appropriate time to recognize the SDF who led the fight against ISIS in Syria, the Iraqi Security Forces who led the fight in Iraq, and the Coalition and U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have fought bravely in support of our partners over the last few years," he said.
Still more work: On Sunday, the U.S.-led coalition said the SDF is doing mop-up work to find any remaining hiding ISIS fighters or weapons.
"The Syrian Democratic Forces will continue to deny Daesh a physical space and influence in the area and work to deny them the resources they need to return," a coalition spokesman tweeted.
"To accomplish this, the SDF have been conducting a series of back clearance operations aimed at identifying any remaining Daesh terrorists previously hidden that remain in the area and eliminating any remaining Daesh weapons caches," said a second tweet. "This back-clearance operation will be deliberate and thorough and help ensure the long-term security for the area."
The tweets came after a local driver for an NBC News crew was killed in an improvised explosive device blast in Syria.
Down, but not out: While the end of the caliphate is a milestone, military officers, lawmakers and administration officials are stressing that ISIS will remain a threat.
"The end of the so-called physical caliphate is a historic military accomplishment that brought together the largest Coalition in history, but the fight against Daesh and violent extremism is far from over," Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement.
In his statement, Shanahan said that "we understand our work is far from complete."
"As the [defeat]-ISIS campaign in northeast Syria transitions from liberating territory to enabling local security and preventing resurgent ISIS networks, we will continue to work by, with, and through our partners and allies to enable stabilization efforts," he said.
Even Trump appeared to acknowledge that in his statement, saying that "while on occasion these cowards will resurface, they have lost all prestige and power."
"They are losers and will always be losers," Trump said in his statement.
Roll call: Saturday's victory came months after Trump first declared victory against ISIS when he announced a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria in December.
The Hill's Ellen Mitchell catalogued all the times between then and now that Trump said ISIS was defeated or near defeat. Walk down memory lane here.
TRUMP OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZES GOLAN AS ISRAEL'S: President Trump on Monday signed a proclamation officially granting U.S. recognition of Israel's claim over the Golan Heights, reversing decades of American policy regarding the disputed territory between Israel and Syria.
Standing side-by-side with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Trump said he was taking the "historic action" because Iran and terrorist groups "continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks against Israel."
"This was a long time in the making. Should have taken place decades ago," Trump told reporters as he signed the proclamation in the Diplomatic Reception Room.
The announcement offers a major boost to Netanyahu, who is facing reelection in two weeks in a race in which he has been shadowed by a slew of corruption indictments.
Rocket attack: Trump cited a Monday rocket strike Israel said was launched by Palestinian militant group Hamas that injured seven near Tel Aviv as the type of incident he wants to prevent, saying "we do not want to see another attack like the one suffered this morning."
Later Monday, the Israel Defense Forces announced that it launched a military strike at Hamas in response to the rocket launch.
"We have just started striking Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip," the IDF wrote on their official Twitter account.
Netanyahu was scheduled to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), but decided to return to Israel early to deal with the fallout from the attack.
At AIPAC: Before Netanyahu and Trump's meeting, Vice President Pence addressed AIPAC and used his speech to hit Democratic presidential candidates for skipping this year's conference.
"Anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land should not be afraid to stand with the strongest supporters of Israel in America," Pence said.
"It is wrong to boycott Israel, and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC," he added, receiving a standing ovation from the thousands of attendees at the conference.
It's unclear if any candidates were invited this year, with AIPAC officials declining to comment on that question. But officials have noted candidates do not typically appear in off-years, such as 2019.
Still, several 2020 Democratic candidates announced last week that they would not attend this year's conference after liberal group MoveOn called for them to boycott the event, citing AIPAC's opposition the Iran nuclear deal and alleged support for "anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric."
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The House Armed Services Committee has two hearings scheduled:
-- The full committee will hear from Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. https://bit.ly/2TArMDf
-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Navy's budget request at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2212. https://bit.ly/2U80k3X
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has three hearings scheduled:
-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on small arms transfers at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2200. https://bit.ly/2U9opHp
-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on U.S.-Africa relations at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2200. https://bit.ly/2UX0fgr
-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on the U.S.-European alliance at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2JGvont
The House Appropriations Committee has four hearings scheduled:
-- The defense subcommittee will hold a hearing the reserve components' budget request at 11 a.m. at the House, room 140. https://bit.ly/2HGOA2B
-- The Homeland Security subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Coast Guard's budget request at 1 p.m. at Rayburn 2358-A. https://bit.ly/2TYy4kM
-- The military construction subcommittee will hold a hearing on military installations at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2359. https://bit.ly/2uv74um
-- The defense subcommittee will hold a closed hearing on the Indo-Pacific Command budget request at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/2ut6ihu
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has two hearings scheduled:
-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy on North Korea at 9:30 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. https://bit.ly/2OpYXIu
-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on the five-year anniversary of the Ukrainian revolution at 2:30 p.m. at Dirksen 419. https://bit.ly/2TLW2Qv
The Senate Armed Services Committee has two hearings scheduled:
-- The full committee will hear from Army Secretary Mark Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley at 9:30 a.m. at Dirksen 419. https://bit.ly/2TKtpD6
-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on the cybersecurity responsibilities of the defense industrial base at 2:30 p.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 232A https://bit.ly/2UULhrt
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie will testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee at 10 a.m. at Russell 418. https://bit.ly/2WnSKQg
-- The Hill: Pentagon sends ships through Taiwan Strait amid tensions with China
-- The Hill: Rubio: Trump reversal on North Korea sanctions 'shouldn't have happened that way'
-- The Hill: US soldiers killed in Afghanistan were from Ohio, Colorado, Pentagon says
-- Stars and Stripes: US bombs kill 10 children in Kunduz clashes, UN says