President Trump gave the Pentagon a directive to surround and “annihilate” ISIS fighters to prevent escaped militants from returning home and spreading their military expertise.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters Friday that Trump approved orders to defeat ISIS militants using a “tactical shift from shoving ISIS out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS.”
“The intent is to prevent the return home of escaped foreign fighters,” Mattis said. “We’re there to drive ISIS to its knees.”
The orders also gave commanders in the field greater authority to make battlefield decisions without approval from Washington.
Mattis has called the ISIS jihadists a “strategic threat” should they flee and return home, and maintained the annihilation campaign would prevent the problem from being transplanted from one location to another.
The move to encircle, then kill, as many jihadists in place as possible — rather than letting them exit a city and targeting them as they flee — reflects an increased urgency to stop battle-hardened jihadists bringing their military expertise and ideology back to European capitals and other areas.
During the press briefing, Mattis declined to comment on a timeline to defeat the terrorist group, saying it’s a “transnational, long-term threat.” Although, Trump repeatedly touted during his campaign that he would “soundly and quickly” defeat ISIS.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that what was once about 1,500 militant fighters pouring into Iraq and Syria each month has been dramatically reduced to less than 100 terrorists each month.
Dunford also mentioned that U.S. is working with Russia to “deconflict” military operations in Syria and touched on a “proposal” to further enhance deconfliction, but he didn’t provide specific details.
“My sense is that the Russians are as enthusiastic as we are to deconflict operations and ensure that we can continue to take the campaign to ISIS and ensure the safety of our personnel,” he said.
It was also announced late Friday evening that Trump nominated Dunford for another two-year term as chairman.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) May 19, 2017
H/T: USA Today
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