There is no foreign policy issue that Donald Trump has focused on more than the eradication of ISIS, especially on the campaign trail. Since becoming president he immediately signed an executive order, summoning his generals to produce a plan within 30 days to destroy the terror group.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis followed through with this, and gave Trump his options on February 27. However, if Trump has since decided on a plan of action, it isn’t yet obvious.
President Obama set current missions in Iraq and Syria in motion, and although they have been moderately successful, they trend toward more military involvement in the region. Is this what Trump the isolationist wants?
American intervention on the ground
The US has since announced plans to nearly double their forces in Syria with 400 more troops and the Pentagon is reportedly considering sending 1,000 extra troops to Kuwait as a reserve force. Additionally, alongside the 5,000 American troops that are training and assisting Iraqi security forces, the Pentagon is considering adding more troops, moving closer to the front lines.
During the campaign, Trump regularly described Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy as a disaster while offering none of his own. Of course he went with the excuse that he didn’t want to tell the enemies his plot. Now that he is in office, he shouldn’t ignore the progress that has been made.
Local forces, backed by American airstrikes, have retaken large areas of Iraq and Syria that were captured by ISIS in 2014. Eastern Mosul has been liberated from ISIS, once Iraq’s second largest city – western Mosul is currently a battleground that has a million people trapped in desperate conditions.
Many terrorist fighters have been killed with fewer replacements arriving from overseas. The terror group’s finances have fallen from about $1.9 billion in 2014 to no more than $870 million in 2016, according to a study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. This cash primarily was derived from oil revenues and taxes exerted from those under their control.
A central strategic question for Trump will be whether he wants to arm the Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS. United States military commanders consider the Kurds as crucial allies in the bid to retake Raqqa, which is home to at least 4,000 ISIS fighters.
However, Turkey – a NATO ally – opposes arming the Kurds as they consider them as equal terrorists who are in bed with the Kurds fighting a separatist war in Turkey. But if the Kurds are not armed, then military experts believe the battle for Raqqa would be delayed and any momentum built would be lost. If the US did arm the Kurds then Ankara might respond by stopping the US military from using Incirlik Air Base.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has wisely kept on the top Obama administration official heading the global anti-ISIS coalition efforts, and has scheduled a meeting of its international members this month.
Ways to govern and maintain security in war-torn regions along with how to meet the basic needs of civilians left behind in the conflict are some of the critical questions that need to be resolved.
ISIS, even if they are defeated militarily, will still look to expand and recruit new members from disillusioned and vulnerable citizens left in the wake of war, and will continue to pose a threat for years to come. Trump’s incitement of hatred of Muslims during the election campaign helped Trump win the election, but it only made ISIS more excited to attack the US. Diplomatic stumbles like reinstating the anti-Muslim visa ban will only reinforce ISIS’ anti-West rhetoric.
“This guy is a complete maniac. His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands,” said Abu Omar Khorasani, a top ISIS commander in Afghanistan, in November 2016.
“Our leaders were closely following the US election but it was unexpected that the Americans will dig their own graves and they did so,” Khorasani said, describing President Obama as a moderate infidel with a little more intelligence than Mr Trump.
A senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan said they also kept track of Mr Trump’s speeches and anti-Muslim comments: “If he does what he warned in his election campaign, I am sure it will provoke Muslim Ummah [community] across the world and jihadi organizations can exploit it.”
Donald Trump has a plan for ISIS – The Warren Harding Plan, who described it himself as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing”.
Trump had a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Well, not really. To the extent there is a plan, it is a House plan.
Trump had a secret plan to defeat ISIS. Well, not really. To the extent he has a plan it is the continuation of Obama’s “horrible” plan. Let’s hope Trump’s secret plan for ISIS works out better than Nixon’s secret plan for Vietnam which gave us 7 more years of war and the loss of tens of thousands of lives.
Trump had a plan for us to disengage militarly from the world. Well, not really. We just implemented a new missile program in S. Korea and are on our way to be more involved in that part of the world than since the Korean War.
Trump had a plan (the”Believe Me” plan) to lie to his supporters and make them think he was telling the truth. That plan worked.
Trump, who neither reads nor writes much of anything worth reading himself, as we’ve come to learn, has neither temperament nor interest sufficient to plow through several hundred pages of heavy reading every week, what President Obama had to do, and did.
No, Trump can’t be bothered because he’s a “Big Picture Man”. And it would cut into his golf time at Mar-a-Lago, that place he goes every chance he gets. Plan, like fact, is just another four-letter word to the Trump administration.
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