President Donald Trump has stated countless times — both on the campaign trail prior to the election and since taking office — that he would utterly crush the Islamic State group and its would-be “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, it appears that Trump is well on his way to doing so, little more than six months since seizing the reins following his inauguration.
For example, out of of all of the land once held by the barbaric Islamic State group and since liberated by the coalition, a group that began fighting the Islamic State group in late 2014, nearly a third of those gains have come in the past few months under the overarching leadership of Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
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That news came via The Washington Post and Brett McGurk, the senior State Department envoy to the anti-Islamic State group coaalition who was appointed to the position by former President Barack Obama. He asserted that coalition gains against the jihadists had “dramatically accelerated” during Trump’s time in office.
Since hitting their peak in terms of territory in 2015, the Islamic State group has lost control of about 27,000 square miles, roughly 8,000 of which has been lost in the past several months. Furthermore, the militant Islamists have lost an estimated 78 percent of the land they once held in Iraq and approximately 58 percent of their territory in Syria, including nearly 45 percent of their putative capitol of Raqqa.
McGurk credited the astonishing improvements to policies enacted under Trump, most specifically his delegation of decision-making capabilities to commanders on the ground, as well as other “key changes” to the “campaign of annihilation” that included the tactic of surrounding Islamic State group-held cities prior to launching offensives, which dramatically reduce the number of jihadists who are able to escape and fight again from somewhere else.
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On top of that, Trump has also been able to obtain increased “burden sharing” from the coalition; that is, more effort on the part of the 73 other nations involved in combating the Islamic State group — not necessarily with the direct fighting, but in coming into liberated areas afterwards and assisting with rebuilding and restoring basic civil necessities, such as electricity, running water and sewer service, which has already allowed displaced residents to begin returning to their homelands.
It is also worth noting that, despite high tensions between the governments of Russia and the U.S., their respective militaries are nevertheless in daily contact with each other in Syria to ensure that a partial cease-fire continues to hold and to prevent other conflicts from being sparked.
To be sure, regardless of the great gains made under Trump thus far, by no means has the Islamic State group been thoroughly destroyed, as was revealed in a piece by The New York Times in July.
Indeed, even as their central “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria crumbles, the Islamic State group has increasingly been reverting to the old style of guerrilla insurgency it once relied upon, and the threat posed by its many affiliates sprouting up from Afghanistan to Libya to the Philippines is a concern, not to mention the increased likelihood of their motivating terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S., among other locales.
“These are obviously major blows to ISIS because its state-building project is over, there is no more caliphate, and that will diminish support and recruits,” explained Hassan Hassan, senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington. “But ISIS today is an international organization. Its leadership and its ability to grow back are still there.”
Hopefully, with Trump’s boot firmly on the neck of the main head of the snake in the caliphate, the remaining body of the murderous beast will be too demoralized and incapable of relocating itself in the region, and unable to grow one of its provinces into a new major base of operations from which to continue its jihad.
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