After years of fighting with virtually one hand tied behind its back, the American military under President Donald Trump is being restored to its former glory. The result of dropping Obama’s “onerous” rules of engagement has allowed the United States to nearly eradicate the hold ISIS has had on the Middle East, as new reports indicate the terror group has lost 98 percent of the territory it once held.
U.S. military officials said Tuesday that half of the Islamic State’s so-called “caliphate” has been recaptured since President Trump took office less than a year ago.
Critics now say the Obama administration “micromanaged” the war and ignored the fact that a more intensive air strategy could have ended the conflict much sooner.
“The rules of engagement under the Obama administration were onerous. I mean, what are we doing having individual target determination being conducted in the White House, which in some cases adds weeks and weeks,” observed retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the former head of U.S. Air Force intelligence. “The limitations that were put on … actually resulted in greater civilian casualties.”
According to the latest American intelligence assessment, fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters now remain in Iraq and Syria, down from a peak of almost 45,000 just two years ago. U.S. officials credit nearly 30,000 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and regional partners on the ground for killing more than 70,000 jihadists. Meanwhile, only a few thousand have returned home.
Before Trump took office, ISIS controlled an area the size of Ohio. Now, the terror group’s strongholds are concentrated in a small area along the border of Syria and Iraq.
ISIS has been largely defeated, but it continues to inspire followers around the world to conduct terror attacks during the holidays. A new message was issued on Tuesday, and the group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Kabul on Christmas, as ISIS attempts to expand its influence into Africa and Afghanistan. The U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition warned late last week not to expect a complete defeat anytime soon.
“ISIS became a brand, and a lot of pre-existing terrorist groups — you’ve seen this in the Sinai, for example — start to raise the flag of ISIS, mainly to recruit foreign fighters and other things,” said Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS at the U.S. Department of State, in a press briefing with reporters Thursday.
Deptula said the ISIS fight would have ended much sooner if then-President Obama had given his military commander in the field more authority. He compared President Obama’s actions to those of President Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War.
“Obama micromanaged the war,” Deptula said. “We could have accomplished our objectives through the use of overwhelming air power in three months, not in three years.”
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