Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the United States made “the caliphate in Syria go away” as the Pentagon plans to withdraw U.S. troops from the country.
His comments in an interview with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep follow President Trump’s assertion that the U.S. has “won against ISIS.”
In fact, the special presidential envoy to the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk, estimated earlier this month that the group retains just 1 percent of its self-proclaimed caliphate.
“The president made an enormous commitment to take down the caliphate. And that has been achieved,” Pompeo told NPR. “We now have the battle that is a longtime battle which is a counterterrorism battle not only against ISIS but against al-Qaida and others.”
He later added, “We continue to push back against ISIS in West Africa, in Afghanistan, all across the world. That threat certainly is out there, the president has acknowledged that.”
Pompeo said the United States remains committed to the Kurds, American allies in the fight against ISIS. The Turkish government views the Kurds fighting in Syria as terrorists aligned with Kurdish rebels in Turkey. Without protection from the United States, the Turkish military is threatening to attack Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria, where U.S. troops are now deployed.
Pompeo would not address the Kurdish-Turkish tension. Instead, he said, “We always have commitments to our — to our allies. We’ve done this relentlessly.”
Pompeo also discussed North Korea and immigration to the U.S. You can read those highlights below, or read the full transcript here.
On the stalled nuclear talks with North Korea
We’ve known from the very first trip that I took when I was in a previous role that the challenge of denuclearizing North Korea was not one that would be something that would be easy or without bumps in the road or would occur in a way that was, like instant pudding. The world doesn’t quite work that way.
We have diplomatically, relentlessly worked to support the president’s mission statement, which is to denuclearize North Korea. We got the commitment from Chairman Kim. We’ve made some progress. There remains a long ways to go, but we are hard at it.
Even today … it’s been a great process. They’re not firing rockets. They’re not conducting nuclear tests. We have a ways to go, and we will continue to achieve — to work to achieve the president’s agenda.
On new changes to asylum policy announced Thursday
It’s consistent with U.S. law and, more importantly, it is deeply consistent with … the humanitarian protection of these migrants as they transit their way through Mexico.
We will no longer permit those who are seeking asylum to remain inside the United States during the pendency of their immigration process. They’ll file a claim, and then they will be returned to Mexico. The Mexican government will be, has, or shortly will be issuing a statement talking about how they will ensure that those migrants are protected and that they’ll get access to counsel, visas, if they need them. This is both deeply lawful and deeply humanitarian.
With respect to reducing the flow, we think this will help. We think this will [disincentivize] folks who think that if they can make the transit through Mexico — a very difficult and arduous journey where terrible things often happen to these migrants — we think they will realize that they won’t be able to stay in the United States and disappear into our country.