Islamic State will have been driven from all the territory it once controlled as a self-declared “caliphate” before the end of the year, French military chief Francois Lecointre said Thursday, September 6.
The jihadists, who conquered vast stretches of Iraq and Syria in 2014, have lost all but a pocket of land in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province between the Euphrates river and Iraqi border, though they remain present in the Syrian desert.
Using an Arabic acronym for ISIS, Lecointre, who is the Chief of the Defence Staff, predicted “the end of the physical caliphate of Daesh before the end of the year, probably late autumn.”
France is part of the U.S.-led Coalition that has been fighting ISIS since 2014 and is now supporting Kurdish and Arab fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle to oust the jihadists from their last holdouts around Hajin in Deir Ezzor.
“Once the physical caliphate has fallen … we will pose the question of how to reconfigure Operation Inherent Resolve,” Lecointre said of the Coalition.
Speaking to reporters, the general pledged to downscale the French troop contingent – currently more than 1,000-strong – “as soon as I can.”
The Syrian conflict has become increasingly complex since it grew out of anti-government protests in 2011, drawing in other major powers including Russia and Turkey.
French troops are training Iraqi forces and aircraft based in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates continue strikes against ISIS in Iraq and southeast Syria. French special operations forces are also based in Manbij, in northern Syria.
With reporting from AFP