US Defense Chief: 'Significant Progress' Against Islamic State in Syria

US Defense Chief: 'Significant Progress' Against Islamic State in Syria

US Defense Chief: 'Significant Progress' Against Islamic State in Syria

"The battle will be launched this evening and its mission will be to eliminate the last remnants of the terrorist organization", Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF media office, said, describing it as the "last battle".

The Turkish minister said he met during his stay in Washington with Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations James Risch and a number of other members to discuss the latest developments in northern Syria.

There are an estimated 500 jihadists are holed up in the 3 square kilometre Baghouz area.

About 1,500 civilians had fled the enclave on Monday.

With U.S. -backed fighters poised to seize the final Syrian sanctuaries held by Islamic State in the coming days, the U.S. military is turning its attention toward a withdrawal of forces in the coming weeks, these people said on Thursday.

The surprise announcement prompted the United States military to caution in a report published this month that the group "could likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory" if sustained pressure is not maintained.

The situation is a far cry from the president's announcement in December that ISIS was already defeated, saying he planned to pull US troops from Syria.

With the so-called caliphate crumbling on the ground, ISIS is looking to ramp up its internet operation in a bid to "reassert" themselves online, General Christopher Ghika said.

That's according to a Sunday report by Martin Chulov in the Guardian, which says the secretive leader known as "Caliph Ibrahim" had to fend off a two-day internal assault in September, by foreign fighters within his group who were eager to overthrow him.

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Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Near the battlefield, an SDF spokesman at the Omar oil field turned military base said "progress is slow".

The capture of the ISIL-held village and nearby areas would mark the end of a four-year global war to end ISIL's territorial hold over large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The final territory controlled by fighters of the so-called Islamic State was in the small town of Baghouz Al-Fawqani, just west of an earthen berm on the outskirts of the village where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces started their push.

Despite Trump's decision, America still has 2,000 or so troops in Syria.

ISIL still retains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert and has claimed a series of deadly attacks by sleeper cells in SDF-held areas.

Trump's surprise announcement in December that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria helped trigger the resignation of his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, and sent USA military officials scrambling to construct a withdrawal plan that preserves as many gains as possible.

The SDF official also said high-level Islamic State commanders had not been captured yet.

It is also unclear whether the United States will be able to satisfy the security concerns in Syria of its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey without sacrificing the interests of USA -backed Kurdish fighters there.

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