More than ninety-nine and a half percent of territory captured by the Daesh terrorist group in Syria has been returned to the Syrian people, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday.
"Within a couple weeks it will be a hundred percent," Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon while discussing the withdrawal of troops from the region.
Shanahan said Daesh is no longer able to govern or mass forces in Syria, and the group’s financial capabilities have been diminished.
"Syria is no longer a safe haven," the defense secretary said. "[Daesh terrorists] no longer hold key territory and they no longer control significant population centers."
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that the 2,000 American troops in Syria would be withdrawn. The move sparked criticism from many allies and security aides, including his own Cabinet, and eventually led to the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The Pentagon announced earlier this month it began withdrawing some military equipment from the area, but there have been no announcements on whether actual troops have begun to withdraw.
In the midst of the withdrawal, the U.S. sent additional troops to Syria to help provide protection to American forces and their equipment as they leave.
Shanahan said that the Pentagon is moving onto the next steps of the withdrawal and it is currently working on the issue of sustaining local security in Syria.