A bullish U.S. President Donald Trump predicted on Wednesday that the Islamic State group would be wiped off the map within hours, as he unfurled printouts showing the jihadists’ shrinking presence in Iraq and Syria.
Trump claimed American forces have inflicted significant casualties on the battlefield in the past month. He has signaled the group’s imminent demise on several previous occasions, although I.S., also known as ISIS, has yet to wave the white flag of surrender.
In one map shown by Trump to reporters in Washington and then again at a rally to workers at a military tank factory in Lima, Ohio, I.S. territory marked in red extends over large areas. A second map, he said, shows the extremist organization about to be wiped out.
“There is no red. In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight,” he said at the White House.
Later in Ohio, standing by M1A2 Abrams tanks painted in camouflage in front of a huge American flag, Trump again used his map props to highlight the military gains against the jihadists. “When I took over it was a mess, they were all over the place, all over Syria and Iraq,” he said of I.S., pointing at the red territory. “And now you look at it, and there’s no red,” he crowed as workers cheered. “As of today, this is ISIS, there’s none. The caliphate is gone as of tonight.”
After sweeping across swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, the I.S. jihadists’ cross-border caliphate has been whittled down by multiple offensives to the tiny embattled enclave in Baghouz, Syria.
Fighting continued in Baghouz on Wednesday, with the I.S. jihadists surrounded and under heavy fire from a U.S.-led coalition of Kurds, Syrians and others.
Trump claimed U.S. forces in the last month “have killed the terrorists responsible for the attack in Syria that killed four Americans.”
On Tuesday a U.S.-backed force in Syria said it arrested the jihadists suspected of involvement in that January attack, the deadliest on U.S. troops since they deployed in the war-torn country in 2014.
Trump also said U.S. forces have killed those who attacked the Bataclan theater in Paris in 2015, and who orchestrated the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which left 17 American servicemen dead.
“We killed them all,” Trump said. “We killed them all.”
In January the U.S. military said that Al Qaeda operative Jamal al-Badawi, an architect of the bombing, was believed to have been killed in a precision strike in Yemen. The chief suspect in the USS Cole attack, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, is being held in the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.