Leaders from a number of countries are reacting to the announcement by US-backed forces that they have captured the last enclave held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group in Syria, eliminating the group’s so-called caliphate.
After weeks of heavy fighting and aerial bombardment, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday declared victory over ISIL, saying they had flushed the group’s fighters from their last remaining stronghold in the eastern town of Baghouz, on the banks of the Euphrates River.
“We announce today the destruction of the so-called Islamic State organisation and the end of its ground control in its last pocket in Baghouz,” Mazloum Abdi, SDF general commander, told a victory ceremony.
The SDF has been Washington’s partner on the ground in Syria, spearheading the fight against ISIL, for the past five years.
Yet the capture of Baghouz will likely not mark the end of ISIL as a force in the region, according to analysts.
Here’s the initial regional and international reaction to the news of the fall of ISIL’s last bastion.
The top military commander of the SDF urged the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to choose the path of dialogue after ISIL’s military defeat, as he announced a “new phase” in the conflict.
“We call on the central government in Damascus to prefer the process of dialogue,” Mazloum Kobane said in a statement.
He also called on Damascus to “start practical steps to reach a political solution based on the recognition” of autonomous institutions and of the SDF’s special status.
Commenting on the battle against ISIL, he said that a “new phase in the fight against terrorists” is beginning, adding that the target was now to eliminate the group’s “sleeper cells”.
President Donald Trump said that the US will “remain vigilant against ISIS by aligning global counterterrorism efforts to fight” the armed group “until it is finally defeated”.
“To all of the young people on the internet believing in ISIS’s propaganda, you will be dead if you join,” Trump said in a statement. “Think instead about having a great life.”
“While on occasion these cowards will resurface, they have lost all prestige and power,” he said, adding “they are losers and will always be losers”.
Meanwhile, William Roebuck, the State Department’s deputy special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, hailed the demise of ISIL as a “critical milestone”.
“We congratulate the Syrian people and particularly the Syrian Democratic Forces on the destruction of ISIS’s fraudulent caliphate,” said Roebuck.
“While we have completed the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, we still have much work to do to achieve an enduring defeat of ISIS … ISIS remains a significant threat in the region, (to) the United States and our partners and allies,” he added.
President Emmanuel Macron said a source of potential violence had been “eliminated” but warned that “the threat remains and the fight against terrorist groups must continue”.
“Syrian Democratic Forces have announced that Daesh’s last stronghold has fallen. I pay homage to our partners and to the armies of the international coalition, of which France is part,” Macron said on Twitter.
“They fought the terrorists with determination for our security.”
Prime Minister Theresa May called the bastion’s fall “a historic milestone” in the fight against ISIL, and said the British government remained “committed to eradicating their poisonous ideology”.
“The liberation of the last Daesh-held territory wouldn’t have been possible without the immense courage of UK military and our allies,” she said on Twitter, using the group’s acronym in Arabic.
“We will continue to do what is necessary to protect the British people, our Allies and partners from the threat Daesh poses.”
Britain said its armed forces had nearly 1,400 personnel in the region providing support to local forces in addition to numerous air attacks carried out by the Royal Air Force.
Britain’s army has also helped train Iraqi security forces.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the end of the so-called caliphate as “an important step”.
He warned, however, that it was “clear” that ISIL “continues to represent a considerable threat”.
“We shall not underestimate that threat,” he said.