Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday faced scrutiny for saying earlier this week that “ISIS has been defeated” on the same day the terror network claimed an attack that killed four American soldiers in Syria.
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace grilled Pence over the tone-deaf assertion, noting the vice president had been briefed on the deadly suicide blast hours before declaring an end to the self-described Islamic State.
“Is that what the defeat of ISIS looks like?” Wallace asked.
Pence stood by his claim that the Islamic State had been devastated and praised President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to quickly withdraw American troops from war-torn Syria.
“First and foremost, our hearts go out to the families of those four American heroes,” Pence responded. “Look, the progress that we have made against ISIS since this president came into office has truly been remarkable. ... In a very real sense, the ISIS state has been defeated.”
Later Sunday, Pence was called out on his “ISIS has been defeated” comments during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“Do you regret, in hindsight, saying that? Their deaths seem to contradict what you said,” host Margaret Brennan said.
Pence replied, “First and foremost, we’re deeply saddened at the loss of these four brave Americans. ... President Obama withdrew American forces ―”
“But should you have said that?” Brennan interrupted.
Pence continued, “Let me be clear: President Obama withdrew American forces from Iraq precipitously in 2011. ISIS rose up virtually out of the desert, overran vast areas of Iraq and Syria ―”
“And that’s a criticism of what the Trump administration is doing in Syria now,” Brennan interrupted, referring to Trump’s highly controversial decision to pull out American troops from the war-torn country.
“The ISIS state has been defeated,” Pence said. “The president wants to bring our troops home, but he also wants to make sure that we hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria ― what remains of ISIS in Syria ― to our coalition partners.”
Four American troops were killed Wednesday when a suicide improvised explosive device detonated while they were conducting a routine patrol in the northern city of Manbij. They were an interpreter, an Army chief warrant officer, a Navy chief cryptologic technician and a Defense Department civilian, CNN reported.
The blast also killed 10 Syrian civilians and five local fighters, according to The New York Times.