The White House announced on Friday that all of ISIS caliphate territory in Syria has been “100 percent eliminated” — but it's worth recalling as both Syria and Russia claim Trump's latest declaration is premature and even "a bluff," how many times has Washington proclaimed the defeat of ISIS?
And perhaps more crucial, how many times has the long promised "full" US troops pullout of Syria been announced, and then reversed?
This is the timeline of the continuing ISIS defeat so far, per South Front below:
On March 21st, the White House announced the defeat of ISIS.
Two years ago, ISIS was running rampant across Syria. Today, they have lost nearly all of their territory. pic.twitter.com/r04BvkZXEC— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 21, 2019
In the video President Trump boasted with "before and after" map showing the caliphate's territorial possessions first on election night in 2016, and then compared to March 20th, 2019.
“This is ISIS on Election Day,” the President said as he held up a side-by-side comparison yesterday. “And this is ISIS now.”
ISIS Caliphate two years ago in red vs. ISIS Caliphate TODAY. (Was even worse in November 2016 before I took office). pic.twitter.com/MUgfex4rCj— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
Leading up to the “final” announcement of ISIS defeat, there have been numerous claims by the Trump administration that ISIS was defeated prior to this. Trump’s announcement on December 19th that US troops would withdraw from Syria since ISIS was defeated initiated multiple follow-up announcements.
December 19th, 2018 – Trump declared: “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House.
After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home! pic.twitter.com/xoNjFzQFTp— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
December 22nd, 2018 – Trump tweeted that “ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.” Thus, the announcement 3 days earlier was wrong and ISIS “nearly” defeated, but not exactly.
....going to be there for three months, and that was seven years ago - we never left. When I became President, ISIS was going wild. Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We’re coming home!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2018
January 16th, 2019 – Vice President Mike Pence announced that “the caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated” in a speech during the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference “One Team, One Mission, One Future.” Earlier on the same day, 4 US soldiers were killed by an ISIS suicide bomber in Manbij, Syria.
January 30th, 2019 – Donald Trump tweeted praising the “tremendous progress” in Syria and that the ISIS “caliphate will soon be destroyed.”
When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant. Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019
February 1st, 2019 – Trump repeated that 100% of the caliphate will soon be destroyed. He also took all of the credit for the “defeat” of ISIS:
....after 18 long years. Syria was loaded with ISIS until I came along. We will soon have destroyed 100% of the Caliphate, but will be watching them closely. It is now time to start coming home and, after many years, spending our money wisely. Certain people must get smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 1, 2019
February 3rd, 2019 – Trump told CBS news that “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate, which is the area — the land, the area — 100. We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100.”
February 6th, 2019 – Trump, in his remarks to the Ministers of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS, said the achievement “should be formally announced, sometime, probably next week, that we will have 100 per cent of the caliphate.” Continuing with “But I want to wait for the official word. I don’t want to say it too early.” Despite already saying it several times.
February 10th, 2019 – Trump tweeted that the U.S. will control all former IS territory in Syria “soon.”
The U.S. will soon control 100% of ISIS territory in Syria. @CNN (do you believe this?).— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2019
February 11th, 2019 – At a rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump said that the announcement that 100% of ISIS territory had been captured will be coming “maybe over the next week, maybe less.
February 15th, 2019 – Trump said that the US would be announcing the end of the ISIS caliphate “within the next 24 hours.”
February 16th, 2019 – Trump tweeted “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!”
....The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2019
February 22nd, 2019 – Trump told reporters “In another short period of time, like hours — you’ll be hearing hours and days — you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It will — it’s 100 percent defeated.”
February 28th, 2019 – Trump said, “We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent we just took over, 100 percent caliphate,” in a speech to troops in Alaska.
March 2nd, 2019 – Trump claimed “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria,” at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Finally, March 20th, 2019 – Trump showed reporters a map that plots the territory still held by the Islamic State in Syria and promises that area “will be gone by tonight.”
In total, the defeat or impending defeat in the next “24 hours” and/or “week” amounts to 15 times.
* * *
The fabled US troop withdrawal from Syria has also gone through many transformations, provided in the following timeline:
December 19th, 2018 – Trump announced that the 2,000 US troops in Syria would be withdrawn immediately, because ISIS was defeated.
Also on December 19th, 2018 – The White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders said that troop withdrawal marked the start of the “next phase” in the struggle with Isis, and suggested they could return if necessary. This was also repeated by the Pentagon. No timetable was given.
December 24th, 2018 – The order to withdraw American troops from Syria was signed, according to US officials.
December 30th, 2018 – Senator Lindsey Graham claimed that Trump had agreed to “slow down troop withdrawal” from Syria.
I learned a lot from President @realDonaldTrump about our efforts in Syria that was reassuring. (1/3)— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 30, 2018
January 11th, 2019 – US withdrawal from Syria begins, but only for equipment, troops remain. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that withdrawal would depend on guarantees for the US’ Kurdish allies.
February 22nd, 2019 – the White House said that it would keep 200 US troops in Syria as a peacekeeping force. Later in the day it turned out that those 200 troops would actually be 400 – 200 troops will remain in the Syrian town of al-Tanf, near the border with Iraq; Another 200 will remain in northern Syria and be part of a “multinational observer force” numbering between 800 and 1,500, mostly European NATO allies, including France and Britain.
Trump also denied that he is “changing course” on his decision and that the withdrawal is still happening.
March 20th, 2019 – When asked if the US is still withdrawing from Syria, Trump said: “No, no. We’re — in Syria, we’re leaving 200 people there, and 200 people in another place in Syria closer to Israel for a period of time.” (still in al-Tanf and northeast Syria).
Changes in the US policy on withdrawal from Syria has changed 7 times since December 19th. According to latest information, there are currently approximately 1,000 US troops remaining in Syria, so a partial withdrawal appears to have actually happened.