The Department of Defense’s plan to defeat the Islamic State, as directed by President Trump to Secretary of Defense James Mattis to prepare over a month ago, is complete and ready for the President.
The plan reportedly reflects the rapidly changing conditions on the ground in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, where the terrorist group’s territory continues to shrink from encroaching armed groups, according to the Associated Press.
While the eventual military defeat of ISIS seems all but assured, the Pentagon has remained cautiously optimistic, acknowledging the complex political situation that will endure well beyond regaining the ground held by the terrorist group since 2014.
As the Iraqi army continues to deteriorate ISIS strongholds in Mosul and around northern Iraq, CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel says that more forces will be needed to complete the ouster of the Islamic State from Syria.
Votel says the vast majority of the ground forces should remain as Arab and Kurdish fighters, but that more American forces may be needed to augment the coalition of militia and rebel groups. Currently there are around 500 Special Operations Forces reportedly inside Syria, where they are training and advising Syrian fighters.
American air strikes and fire support have been the decisive edge for the opposition groups inside Syria fighting the Islamic State. As the Assad regime regains its footing and momentum against its own opposition groups, its Russian-backed forces will eventually come into contact with American and Turkish-backed rebel groups.
Recent fighting around the city of al-Bab in Northern Syria can attest to the complicated structure of opposition groups and their foreign supporters. Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army rebels there have engaged American-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) in addition to their ongoing fight against the Assad regime.
As Assad forces advance from the south, and SDF forces remain to the east of al-Bab, Turkey has said its rebel groups will not be able to proceed east to assist in the capture of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State.
If the U.S. plan to accelerate operations against the Islamic State in Syria are to include more U.S. troops and support, it will need to address the inevitable reality what a post-ISIS Syria will look like, and if the goal is ultimately, as President Trump has said, to simply “obliterate” ISIS.
Image courtesy of Reuters