US Committed to ‘Permanent Destruction’ of IS

The United States remains committed to the “permanent destruction” of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Syria and around the world, a U.S. diplomat said Thursday.

“We will continue to work together with our allies to fight terrorism,” Rodney Hunter, the U.S. political coordinator for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, told a Security Council meeting on Syria. “The United States will also work with like-minded states, the United Nations and the Syrian opposition to seek a diplomatic end to this conflict.”

His remarks came a day after President Donald Trump declared a U.S. victory over IS and ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from Syria. 

In a video statement, Trump declared, “We have won against IS. We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly.”

His announcement caught most in the U.S. political and military establishment by surprise. It also received pushback from U.S. allies and fellow anti-IS coalition members. 

At the United Nations, Britain’s ambassador said the global coalition — including her government — has made important counterterrorism advances. 

“Much remains to be done in the global campaign,” Ambassador Karen Pierce said. “But we must not lose sight of the threat Daesh continues to pose, even when they continue no longer to hold territory.” Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group. 

French envoy Francois Delattre said the “fight is not over” and warned that tensions on the ground could provide an opportunity for terrorists. He said it is important that the United States take into account protection of populations in northeastern Syria to avoid any humanitarian tragedy or resurgence of terrorism. The withdrawal of U.S. forces could also leave U.S.-backed Kurdish troops in jeopardy.

“We are in close contact with Washington on the timetable and the conditions to implement the decision to withdraw the American forces engaged against Daesh in Syria,” Delattre said. “In the upcoming weeks, France will be ensuring carefully that the security of all U.S. partners be insured, including the Syrian Democratic Forces.” 

Political track

The council heard its final briefing from outgoing U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. He leaves the job after more than four years with little success. 

During his tenure, he has worked to make the peace process more inclusive and had a role in facilitating some short-term cease-fires. De Mistura has been working intensively during his final weeks to solidify the creation of a constitutional committee, which is seen as a crucial step toward a credible and inclusive political process for ending the civil war.

There are to be three lists of 50 persons each for the committee — one from the Damascus government, one from the opposition and a third list that will be a combination of both sides. 

De Mistura said that they “nearly” have a list, but the U.N. is unable to accept all of the 50 names put forward on the third list. 

“The United Nations, having examined the names, assessed that we would not feel comfortable yet giving the U.N. stamp of legitimacy to all 50 of them as meeting the necessary criteria of credibility and balance,” he said. “No list will be perfect, but in our assessment, the list needs a further review and a revision.” 

Once a list is agreed upon, stakeholders hope to convene a first meeting of the constitutional committee in January.