Published: Thu, March 14, 2019

US ‘optimistic’ France, Britain will join stay-behind Syria force

US ‘optimistic’ France, Britain will join stay-behind Syria force

"It hasn't happened formally yet, but they're looking at it", he said, adding that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joe Dunford, is working to set up the force.Bolton insisted there was no contradiction between Trump's assertion that the caliphate declared by the Islamic State group has been eliminated 100 percent, and the assessment of the top USA commander in the Middle East, who told Congress last week the fight is "far from over". "(The caliphate) still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network".

There were advances on some points, Bali said.

"Combined with the SDF ground movement against the final enclave, progress is being made and their capabilities are being severely destroyed". Many houses had been completely flattened and roads had been cratered by missile strikes.

Trump later reversed his original position of a full pullback of forces from Syria, where the US now has between two and three thousand troops.

Around 2,000 members of the bloodthirsty terror have now surrendered after being flushed out of their hideouts in the war-ravaged town of Baghouz in eastern Syria.

Islamic State's defences include extensive tunnels.

And in order to achieve the goal of defeating ISIS and build the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces, the DoD says the need remains for a long-term US military presence in Iraq. Live footage broadcast by the Kurdish Ronahi TV showed a series of large explosions lighting up the night sky over Baghouz, apparently from an ammunitions dump blowing up.

"There were suicide vest attacks by a group of bombers who tried to blow themselves up amidst our forces".

The official said the Kurd-led force was pounding jihadists with heavy artillery to hamper the offensive, which IS launched from several fronts following fierce clashes on Tuesday night.

The SDF has laid siege to Baghouz for weeks but has repeatedly postponed its final assault to allow thousands of civilians, many of them wives and children of ISIL fighters, to leave.

Supported by air strikes by the US-led coalition, the SDF resumed shelling on Sunday.

"It hasn't happened formally yet, but they're looking at it", he added.

The exodus has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Kurdish-run camps for the displaced further north, which are struggling to accomodate the mass influx of women and children.

Even as the last shred of its physical statelet crumbled, the group put out a new propaganda video, filmed in recent weeks inside Baghouz, insisting on its claim to leadership of all Muslims and calling on its supporters to keep the faith.

As the Islamic State loses control of the last of its territorial caliphate, which once stretched over 30,000 square miles, the terror group remains an active and potent force in the region despite reports of their demise. Government forces rained incendiary bombs overnight on Idlib in the northwest, the last major area held by anti-Assad rebels, where fighting has escalated in recent weeks despite a September de-escalation agreement.

The Russian defense ministry said they targeted a weapons store by Tahrir al Sham where it said the jihadists planned a drone attack on a Russian air base near the Mediterranean.

Delil, an SDF fighter, said: "Today, the sandstorm is to their benefit but all coming days are ours".

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