Syria has not yet been completely liberated from Islamic State militants, but even once it is, it will be necessary to oppose the return of the extremists to the Arab country, US Defense Ministry spokesperson Eric Pahon told a TASS correspondent on Wednesday.
“Syria has not been cleansed of ISIS. They could withstand our attacks, and we intend to continue our operations in the foreseeable future in order to ensure stability and security in this country,” the Pentagon spokesperson responded when asked to comment on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement that the terrorists in Syria on both banks of the Euphrates have been completely defeated.
“They [the terrorists] have not been completely defeated or destroyed in Syria. And even when the last ISIS militant is eliminated, there will still be a lot of work in order to ensure that the terrorists are not permitted to regain the initiative, as happened in 2014. This battle is far from over,” Pahon asserted. He also reiterated the Pentagon’s stance that “the global coalition, which includes the US, the partner states, as well as the partners on the ground, has achieved the greatest success in the fight against ISIS”.
Earlier Putin told reporters that “the operations on the eastern and western banks of the Euphrates have been completed, with the utter defeat of the terrorists,” as Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu had reported to him. However, the Russian leader noted that in Syria there may still be “individual pockets of resistance, but on the whole, the military work at this stage and in this territory has come to an end,” with the outcome of complete “victory and defeat of the terrorists”.
The Pentagon spokesperson’s comments disagree with US President Donald Trump’s statements. In a meeting with cabinet members on Wednesday, Trump said that ISIS militants had largely been “driven out of Syria and driven out of Iraq”. According to him, Defense Minister James Mattis and the American military have “knocked the hell out” of ISIS.