first published on May 22, 2017 by Sean
Last Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis held a press conference highlighting new authority granted to the Department of Defense by the President in operations against the Islamic State, and the new US strategy to “Annihilate” ISIS. The new shift will focus on containing foreign fighters inside Syrian and Iraqi strongholds – before destroying them and preventing their global proliferation after the impending destruction of the so-called caliphate.
Following a “comprehensive review of the campaign” conducted by the DoD and at the behest of President Trump, The President ordered an “Accelerated operation against ISIS.” The Secretary would explain that first, “He delegated authority” to the lower levels in the Department of Defense so that they can “Aggressively and in a timely manner, move against enemy vulnerabilities.”
He then continued that the US would begin a “tactical shift” from “shoving” the enemy out of “seized locations” which he labeled as an “attrition fight,” to a strategy of “Surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS.” He marked the strategic intent as the prevention of foreign fighters escaping from Iraq and Syria; returning to their home countries and spreading ISIS attacks around the globe.
Secretary Mattis would also emphasize that “there would be no change to our rules of engagement,” and he reiterated the US will continue efforts to reduce civilian fatalities in future operations. The Secretary would then highlight some of the recent achievements of the US and her allies against ISIS. Engaging “ISIS elements from Southeast Asia to Africa” with continued foreign military and intelligence collaborations while battling the Islamic State. He concluded that “while ISIS remains dangerous, they are no longer carrying an era of strength.”
With the encirclement of Raqqa nearing completion, and Mosul on the brink of collapse, preventing the ISIS remnants from spreading throughout the region and world is militarily and politically imperative. Sec. Mattis’s new strategy appears to directly focus on hemming these extremists into these strongholds and allowing local conventional forces aided by US firepower, to kill them before they fade back into civilian anonymity. With any luck, this new strategy will help contain the spread of ISIS and limit its abilities to carry out attacks abroad.