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White House Sees Imminent Liberation Of Raqqa, IS's Last Stronghold In Syria

Syrian Democratic Forces troops walk past the ruins of destroyed buildings near the National Hospital in Raqqa on October 17.

The White House has said the imminent liberation of Raqqa, the Islamic State (IS) group's last major stronghold in Syria, will open a new phase in the long-running conflict there.

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on October 18 that the fall of the Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this year along with Raqqa's expected liberation in the coming days made clear that the extremist group's self-declared "caliphate" is crumbling across Iraq and Syria.

U.S.-allied Syrian forces said on October 18 that they had driven IS from Raqqa and were now removing land mines and clearing roads in the devastated city.

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said preparations were under way for a formal declaration of the city's liberation.

With IS's territory now much-diminished to a small area on the Iraq-Syria border, Sanders said U.S. President Donald Trump is now close to achieving one of his core campaign promises: the defeat of IS.

She said the United States will now seek the "de-escalation" of violence in other battlefields across Syria.

The U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting IS, Brett McGurk, posted a photograph online of surrendering IS militants and said, "Once purported as fierce, now pathetic and a lost cause."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP