Washington- Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS at the U.S. Department of State Brett McGurk addressed reporters at the White House shortly after meeting with President Obama and other national security officials about the ongoing counter-ISIS operations.
McGurk said that in Iraq, “about 61 percent of territory controlled by ISIS has now been reclaimed and about 28 percent in Syria.”
“But what is most significant,” he said, “is that there was still a 98 kilometers strip of border with Turkey in which ISIS terrorists were still able to come in and out, and that is where the Paris attackers and the Brussels attackers transited through this route.”
“We are having tremendous success against this enemy. We are killing their leaders we are taking out their ability to finance themselves,” McGurk said before adding there was work to be done to counter the terrorist network. “This will be a multi-year effort,” he said.
He declared that ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is “in deep, deep hiding,” and “we also know he hides with slaves and all sorts of terrible things.”
Sirte, Libya, a “strategic location on the Mediterranean,” he said, “is no longer accessible to ISIS terrorists.”
McGurk stressed that Baghdadi has not been seen on video “in well over a year,” and though he issued an audio statement last month “issuing audiotapes deep in hiding is not really the sign of a competent leader, particularly in today’s media age.”
“So eventually we will find and eliminate him as well, but the leadership ranks continued to diminish,” he added.
“The number of battle-ready fighters inside Iraq and Syria is now at its lowest point that it’s ever been; we estimate about 12,000 to 15,000.”
Referring to recent strikes against ISIS leaders in Raqqa, he said since the beginning of the campaign, the U.S.-led international coalition has eliminated nearly all of ISIS leader Baghdadi’s deputies and his trusted advisers.
Since the beginning of this campaign about two years ago, the U.S. has trained over 65,000 Iraqi personnel.
“We are now fighting professionally and performing heroically. So, ISIS militants are now trapped in Mosul, they are unable to resupply or replenish their dwindling ranks,” McGurk said.