WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump hailed the end of the Islamic State (IS) group’s “caliphate” Saturday, vowing that the United States would remain “vigilant” against the diehard jihadists.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) victory in the remote riverside village of Baghouz, where IS made its last stand, capped a six-month operation against the final remnants of IS-controlled territory that once stretched across a vast swathe of Iraq and Syria, with seven million people in its sway.
“We will remain vigilant... until it is finally defeated wherever it operates,” Trump said of IS in a statement.
“The United States will defend American interests whenever and wherever necessary. We will continue to work with our partners and allies to totally crush radical Islamic terrorists.”
Trump also had a warning for youths who can easily be swayed.
“To all of the young people on the internet believing in (IS’s) propaganda, you will be dead if you join. Think instead about having a great life,” he said.
Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan welcomed the “critical milestone,” but warned that “our work is far from complete.”
“We will continue our work with the global coalition to deny Islamic State safe haven anywhere in the world,” he said.
“We remain committed to Islamic State’s enduring defeat and we are confident that we will prevail.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, Jr added that “the US military remains committed to working closely with our Coalition and regional partners to ensure the lasting defeat of Islamic State.”
The jihadists retain a presence in eastern Syria’s vast Badia desert and various other hideouts from which they could wage the kind of deadly guerrilla insurgency that accompanied the rise of IS.
While the geographic caliphate has been dismantled, analysts warn remnants of the group can melt back in to the population while seeking to convert others to their ideology.