White House gets counter-ISIS plan

But strat­egy for ‘rapid de­feat’ may deepen U.S. mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in Syria

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ROBERT BURNS AND LOLITA C. BALDOR WASH­ING­TON —

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.

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