The top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that despite largely destroying the physical territorial holdings of the Islamic State, "the fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed."
GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, CENTCOM: In Syria and Iraq the unrelenting work of the 79-member Defeat ISIS Coalition, the determination and bravery of our Iraqi security forces and Syrian Democratic Force partners and the support of multiple international government organizations has largely liberated the so-called physical caliphate of ISIS, an area of 34,000 square miles of territory which they once controlled is now reduced to an area less than 20 square miles. The successful partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iraqi security forces was instrumental in these gains against ISIS but it is important to understand that even though this territory has been reclaimed the fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed.
The coalition's hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against a now largely disbursed and disaggregated ISIS that retains leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts. As the Defeat ISIS Campaign in Syria transitions from liberating territory to enabling local security and addressing the ISIS clandestine insurgency U.S. ground forces will depart Syria in a deliberate and coordinated manner while we concurrently consult with allies and partners to implement stabilization efforts. These details are being developed now and will ensure campaign continuity and capitalize on the contributions of the international community to prevent a resurgence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.