White House gets counter-ISIS plan
But strategy for ‘rapid defeat’ may deepen U.S. military involvement in Syria
Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday gave the White House a plan to “rapidly defeat” the Islamic State group, a Pentagon spokesperson said.
The strategy includes significant elements of the approach President Donald Trump inherited, while potentially deepening U.S. military involvement in Syria.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Mattis, who travelled to Iraq last week to help inform his thinking, presented the results of a 30-day strategy review at a cabinet-level meeting of the National Security Council.
It’s unclear whether the meeting included Trump, who said last week his goal is to “obliterate” ISIS.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Mattis was ensuring he had input from other cabinet agencies.
“That can help guide where we go from here,” Spicer said.
Davis said details of the report are classified secret.
“It is a plan to rapidly defeat ISIS,” Davis said, using the Pentagon’s preferred acronym for the group, which has proven resilient despite losing ground in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Officials familiar with the review have said it will likely lead to decisions that mean more U.S. military involvement in Syria, and possibly more ground troops, even as the current U.S. plan in Iraq appears to be working and will require fewer changes.
Davis described the Mattis report as “a framework for a broader discussion” of a strategy to be developed over time, rather than a readyto-execute military plan.
In a Jan. 28 executive order, Trump said he wanted within 30 days a “preliminary draft” of a plan to “defeat ISIS.” Davis said the report defines what it means to “defeat” the group, which he wouldn’t reveal to reporters.
It also includes some individual actions that will require decisions by the White House, Davis said, “but it’s not a ‘check-the-block, pick A or B or C’ kind of a plan.”
“This is a broad plan,” he said. “It is global. It is not just military. It is not just Iraq/Syria.”
Beyond military options, the officials familiar with the review said the report increases emphasis on non-military elements of the campaign already underway, such as efforts to squeeze ISIS finances, limit recruiting and counter propaganda that is credited with inspiring violence in the U.S. and Europe.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week the emerging strategy will target not just Islamic State militants but also al-Qaida and other extremist organizations in the Middle East and beyond, whose goal is to attack the United States.