Kuwait will host a conference early next year focused on reconstruction efforts in Iraq following “unprecedented” advances made recently by the country’s military, Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, said Friday.
McGurk, speaking during a briefing at the State Department, also told reporters it is “a matter of time” before Islamic State fighters are completely removed from Raqqa, Syria, and that “the end is now in sight.”
He added, “They are now really down to about their last three neighborhoods in the north-central part of the city, and it is a matter of time until the operation in Iraq is finished."
McGurk said the Iraqi security forces currently are engaged in a surprise anti-IS operation in a town just south of Kirkuk, and the operation, which began two days ago, "is already far ahead of schedule.”
He emphasized the importance of moving forward and not getting sidetracked..
"There are signs that we have momentum, but the focus of this meeting was to make sure that we have follow-through,” he said. “We cannot be fatigued. We have to make sure we keep our foot on the gas, and everybody in the room was fully committed to that.”
McGurk called it “unprecedented” that more than 2 million people already have returned to their homes in areas that previously were held by IS jihadists. He also noted that none of the territory captured from IS has been retaken by the group’s fighters.
“This is not a situation in which we’re working with military forces on the ground that go in and clear territory, and then ISIS or terrorists come back. All the ground has held, and we want to make sure, obviously, that we keep it that way,” he said.