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A picture taken on March 23, 2019 shows a fighter of the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) flashing the V for victory sign in the fallen Islamic State group's last bastion in the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz after defeating the jihadist group.

(Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images)

ISIS caliphate utterly defeated as last 1.5 miles of territory taken in fierce fight

"Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and 100% territorial defeat of ISIS"

Al-Baghuz Fawqani is a village in Syria, less than 25 miles from the border with Iraq. The last census data, from 2004, had about 10,000 residents in the town. It is 69°F and partly sunny on the afternoon of March 23, 2019 in this Syrian locale, and ISIS (ISIL) is defeated.

This was the last part of Syria that was under control of the terror group and would-be terror state. There is no more "ISIS territory". They don't have land, towns, villages. They do not have a caliphate.

For the New York Times, the indispensable Rukmini Callimachi described on Saturday the fierce fight to take that last 1.5 square miles to which the Islamic State held claim.

They detonated car bombs and hurled explosives from drones. Suicide bombers ran across the front line under cover of darkness to attack the sleeping quarters of the coalition.
In the last weeks, the militants' families fled for their lives, their black-clad wives streaming into the desert by the tens of thousands. Some of them defiantly chanted Islamic State slogans and lobbed fistfuls of dirt at reporters.
But after a grueling campaign, the last speck of land was finally wrested from the Islamic State.


Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces that, with the backing of the U.S.-led coalition, took the town and raised their flag in place of the ISIS flag on Saturday, tweeted about the victory.

"Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and %100 territorial defeat of ISIS," he wrote. "On this unique day, we commemorate thousands of martyrs whose efforts made the victory possible." He included the hashtag: #SDFDefeatedISIS.

Another spokesman for the SDF warns that of course the threat of the group is not gone, even as their territory is broken. "We cannot say that ISIS is finished," said Kino Gabriel. "It is true that they are finished on the ground as a standing army. But the ISIS threat remains around the globe."

Fox News reported a short time ago that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has just boarded the plane to depart from his trip to Beirut, Lebanon, told reporters asking about the defeat of ISIS in Syria that "our mission there hasn't changed."

"We still have work to do to make sure radical Islamic terrorism doesn't continue to grow," said Pompeo.

For the New York Times, Rukmini Calimachi notes that among the thousands detained as remnants of ISIS in Syria--fighters and family members, refugees, foreigners who went there to join the cause--some have spoken with reporters, and while acknowledging the territorial defeat, echo the SDF spokesman's cautions.

""Maybe the group will be defeated in Syria, but not elsewhere," a man who spent four and a half years in ISIS territory told the Times. "Sure, in Syria, they are down to nothing, but in the deserts of Anbar, they live on. And in Asia and in Africa, they are still fighting."

Nevertheless, three months after President Trump said that ISIS was defeated, they now have been. To put it in the words of the SDF spokesman, 100% defeated as both a standing army and as a caliphate.

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Caleb Howe

Caleb Howe