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IS down to less than 1% of original 'caliphate': US-led coalition

11 February 2019

Mustafa Bali said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces made the advances overnight and on Sunday, hours after they launched a final push to clear the area from ISIL militants Saturday night.

"IS counterattack was foiled at 4 am this morning", Bali tweeted on Sunday morning.

Trump said on Wednesday that he expected a formal announcement as early as next week that the coalition fighting the militants has reclaimed all of the territory it previously held.

"Currently, ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory", the report added, quoting officials with the U.S. Central Command.

"The decisive battle began tonight to finish what remains of Daesh terrorists", Bali said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS.

Citing current and former US officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that the USA military was preparing to withdraw its forces from Syria by the end of April and a significant portion of them would be out by the middle of March.

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The SDF, backed by a USA -led coalition, began the assault on Saturday, seeking to wipe out the last remnants of the jihadist group's "caliphate" in the SDF's area of operations in eastern and northern Syria.

Up to 600 jihadists could still remain inside, majority foreigners, Bali said.

"Remnants - that's all they have, remnants - but remnants can be very unsafe", Trump said.

News of tonight's attack comes just days after President Donald Trump declared that the jihadist group would have been stamped out by next week.

It is also unclear whether the United States will be able to satisfy the security concerns in Syria of its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey without sacrificing the interests of US -backed Kurdish fighters there.

"We have special units whose job it is to direct civilians to corridors they can cross" to safety, he said.

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US, French, British and other forces are also actively looking for wanted IS operatives among those fleeing the combat zone with civilians.

USA and SDF officials say, however, they have no reason to believe he is there.

The Britain-based war monitor has said that figure includes some 3,200 suspected jihadists.

Damascus has rejected Kurdish self-rule, and has said it would eventually return the oil-rich third of the country now held by the SDF to government control.

In December, Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000 United States troops from Syria in a surprise move, saying ISIL had been defeated.

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IS down to less than 1% of original 'caliphate': US-led coalition