U.S.-backed forces in Syria declare final victory over ISIS

Heavy fighting still underway against ISIS holdouts

Last Updated Mar 23, 2019 2:40 AM EDT

U.S.-backed forces in Syria on Saturday said it had ousted ISIS from its final outpost in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz. Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, tweeted "Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and %100 territorial defeat of ISIS" 

President Trump said Friday U.S.-backed forces have now taken 100 percent of the territory once held by ISIS in Syria. In 2014, it held nearly a third of the country and 2,000 U.S. troops eventually joined the battle. That will soon be reduced to a few hundred.

On Friday, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces told CBS News' Charlie D'Agata there was still heavy fighting underway against remaining ISIS holdouts, hiding out in tunnels and caves beneath the cliffs SDF soldiers took CBS News to earlier this week.

SDF officials said they found an extensive network of tunnels beneath the last remaining ISIS camp in Baghouz, and it still need clearing. But in terms of holding territory, the president's statement may be accurate. ISIS has been driven out of, or beneath, any ground it can still call its own. 

While the defeat of ISIS on the ground marks a major milestone, America's allies say they're worried it will hasten the withdrawal of U.S. troops. They've been a vital part of this fight. American ground forces, along with tens of thousands of U.S. and coalition airstrikes finally cornered ISIS into a tiny sliver of land along the Euphrates River.

Any remaining ISIS fighters are no longer defending any territory. There are just a number left who simply refuse to give up.

The president's statement came as a surprise in Syria. But it's not exactly a contradiction. Few would argue that ISIS holds any territory you can see on that map the president held up. But they won't declare total victory until the fighting is over.