AP FACT CHECK: Trump off on battling IS

Published 8:01 am Friday, March 23, 2018

TRUMP: “On terrorism, in Iraq and Syria, we’ve taken back almost 100 percent, in a very short period of time, of the land that they took. And it all took place since our election. We’ve taken back close to 100 percent.”

THE FACTS: It’s not true that progress against IS “all took place” since the election. The Obama administration said IS had lost more than 40 percent of its territory by the time the last president left office.

IS was pushed to the point of collapse in Mosul, its main Iraqi stronghold, before Trump took office. In 2016, Iraqi military forces, supported by the coalition, waged successful battles to oust IS from Fallujah, Ramadi, eastern Mosul and a number of smaller towns along the Tigris River. They also established logistical hubs for the push that began in February 2017 to retake western Mosul.

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It’s true that advances since then have decimated IS as a territorial force. Those advances came on many fronts from multiple foes of the Islamic State group, including U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and fighters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, supported by Russia.  Trump achieved progress early on in Syria, deploying hundreds more troops to help prepare local forces to retake Raqqa, the Syrian city that was the militants’ de facto capital.

Even so, the assertion that “we’ve taken back close to 100 percent” is only supportable if “we” means the various groups, often hostile to each other, that have been battling IS.