It's been three years since President Obama called the Islamic State, a terrorist organization that emerged in the Iraq power vacuum left behind after his pre-mature troop pullout in 2011, the "jayvee team."
During his remaining time in the Oval Office between 2014 and 2016, Americans and the world watched as ISIS marched across Iraq undeterred, brutally slaughtering thousands and destroying world history along the way. What had been won by U.S. forces in preceding years was lost. By 2016, ISIS had taken over and controlled large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the coveted caliphate so many Islamic terrorist organizations longed to achieve.
In just nine months, the situation has drastically changed.
On Saturday President Trump offically announced the fall of Raqqah, the Syrian city where ISIS held their headquarters.
"I am pleased to announce that the Syrian Democratic Forces, our partners in the fight against ISIS in Syria, have successfully recaptured Raqqah – the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital city. Together, our forces have liberated the entire city from ISIS control," President Trump said in a statement. "The defeat of ISIS in Raqqah represents a critical breakthrough in our worldwide campaign to defeat ISIS and its wicked ideology. With the liberation of ISIS’s capital and the vast majority of its territory, the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight."
Before Raqqah, Mosul was recovered, then Kirkuk and other cities along the way.
So, what's next? Although the caliphate has been defeated, ISIS still exists outside of its borders. Terrorism experts say cyber warfare will be crucial in combating the spread of ISIS ideology in western countries. The U.S. with its allies will need to fill a vacuum so ISIS cannot re-emerge as a power in the region. According to the President, there is a plan.
"We will soon transition into a new phase in which we will support local security forces, de-escalate violence across Syria, and advance the conditions for lasting peace, so that the terrorists cannot return to threaten our collective security again. Together, with our allies and partners, we will support diplomatic negotiations that end the violence, allow refugees to return safely home, and yield a political transition that honors the will of the Syrian people," President Trump said. "One of my core campaign promises to the American people was to defeat ISIS and to counter the spread of hateful ideology. That is why, in the first days of my Administration, I issued orders to give our commanders and troops on the ground the full authorities to achieve this mission. As a result, ISIS strongholds in Mosul and Raqqah have fallen. We have made, alongside our coalition partners, more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years."
"I commend all of our coalition partners for the sacrifices they have made in this noble effort. Therefore, as we recognize this military accomplishment, we also pause to honor our service men and women and all they have given to protect us and all civilized people from these modern day barbarians," he continued. "Today, we reaffirm that ISIS leaders, and anyone who supports them, must and will face justice."
With leadership and decisive military action, a victory against ISIS is near. On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to get the job done. In a short period of time, he has delivered.