WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – US Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Friday described the significantly more aggressive approach of the new US administration to fighting the Islamic State (IS).
At President Donald Trump’s direction, the Defense Department led a 30-day, inter-agency review of the anti-IS campaign. Two major changes followed.
First, the Pentagon has received more decision-making authority, and that has given local commanders more leeway.
“No longer will we have slowed decision cycles because Washington, DC has to authorize tactical movements on the ground,” Mattis affirmed.
Tactics have also changed. Previously, the US was engaged in an “attrition fight,” where it was “shoving” IS fighters out of one place only to flee elsewhere.
As the Secretary of Defense explained, the new tactics involve “surrounding the enemy in their strongholds,” before attacking, so we can “annihilate” them.
“We carry out the annihilation campaign, so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another,” Mattis affirmed.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, detailed the coalition’s military accomplishments.
IS territory in Syria and Iraq has been reduced by 55 percent.
The flood of foreign fighters—1,500 per month, at its peak—is down to 100 per month. And, IS revenues are at their lowest since 2014.
Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk leads the State Department’s efforts, helping coordinate among the anti-IS coalition members, as well as helping refashion the political landscape after IS’ defeat.
Establishing a solid, new political framework for the areas liberated from IS is necessary to ensure the insurgent group doesn’t re-emerge—a point repeatedly made by senior officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Earlier, McGurk met with Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) Masrour Barzani who is visiting Washington.
KRSC Chancellor Barzani emphasized “the importance of negotiating good-faith political settlements as an element of security and stability” after IS’ defeat, a KRG press release stated.
At the Pentagon briefing, McGurk explained that before a local US ally begins a military operation, “we do extensive diplomatic and political work at the local levels to try to set conditions for stability after [IS].”
He cited Mosul as an example, “where we’ve seen really unprecedented cooperation between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi Security Forces, working together, fighting together, and taking casualties together.”
In addition to discussing the anti-IS campaign, the Secretary of Defense also emphasized the dangers Iran poses.
A US aircraft struck forces in Syria loyal to the regime the day before. The forces were moving toward a US training facility, near the Iraqi border, and they violated a de-confliction zone.
The US aircraft bombed the convoy, after it ignored warning shots, destroying some five vehicles.
“I don’t know [if] there were Iranians on the ground,” Mattis said, but they were an “Iranian-directed” force.
Replying to a question from Kurdistan24, Mattis added the activities of the Iranian regime have been “hurtful.”
I have “never seen refugees as traumatized as I’ve seen come out of Syria,” he said.
“When the Syrian people rose up against Assad,” were it not for Iran’s support for his regime, “they would have been successful,” he continued.
“Iran bears no little responsibility” for the massive suffering of the Syrian people, Mattis concluded.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany