Iraqi Armed Forces and Syrian troops affiliated with the coalition symbolically linked hands on their mutual border in December 2017 to mark the final defeat of Daesh in Iraq.
The terrorist group once boasted more than 25,000 fighters in the region, but by the beginning of 2018 fewer than 3,000 remained, mostly in Syria. So thoroughly had Iraqi forces recaptured the territory once occupied by Daesh that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared final victory December 10, 2017.
Nearly 8 million Iraqis and Syrians have been liberated from Daesh misrule since 2014. Cities freed included Ramadi, Mosul, Fallujah, Raqqa and Bayji.
“Your lands have been completely liberated, your occupied cities and towns are now safely back to the heart of our nation, and the dream of liberation is now a reality,” Prime Minister al-Abadi told his fellow citizens in the December victory speech.
Nevertheless, the Iraqi leader issued words of caution lest poor governance, corruption and disunity spoil the accomplishments of the Iraqi Armed Forces. He called for an end to “sectarian and seditious language that was the primary cause of many humanitarian catastrophes.” Iraqi disunity allowed Daesh gangs to occupy and destroy Iraqi cities, causing suffering for millions of residents, he said.
“Despite the announcement of the final victory, we must remain vigilant, ready to thwart any attempt to terrorize our land and people,” Prime Minister al-Abadi said. “Terrorism is a constant threat, and our battle against it continues. The secret to our great victory was our unity and concord — we must guard them jealously.”