Syrian forces near the capture of the city of Deir Ezzor from IS
Video provided by AFP
I want to thank General Mattis for doing a great job with respect to ISIS, "Trump said, addressing Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis at Wednesday's cabinet meeting." He hit them a lot. "Of course, I've done it possible with what I've let you do. "
It is true that the Islamic State has lost its control over almost all the land it controlled when it first entered the scene three years ago in Iraq and Syria, but identifying success is more complicated.
What Trump did not say was that his government is implementing a strategy against the Islamic State, which is also called ISIS, largely formulated under Obama.
"Nothing President Trump made or authorized a fundamental change in the strategy against ISIS," said Jennifer Cafarella, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War.
Obama's strategy was designed to support local land forces in Iraq and Syria with coalition air power, advisors and training. The US ground forces are not involved in direct combat with the terrorist group.
The United States has deployed around 5,200 troops in Iraq and 2,000 in Syria. Most are performing counseling or training functions.
More: The forces in Iraq will need help from the USA. UU Long after ISIS has left, says the commander
The strategy has not changed, but Trump's decision to give field commanders more authority to make decisions has accelerated the pace of the campaign, said the analysts.
Last year, ISIS was expelled from Raqqa, its de facto capital in Syria and Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.
The Islamic State has lost most of the major cities and towns it once controlled and the remains cling to a series of towns and villages on the Euphrates River that runs between Iraq and Syria.  About 3,000 militants remain in Iraq and Syria, compared to a maximum of more than 25,000 in 2014 and 2015.
Trump "delegates the authority at the correct level to aggressively attack the enemy's vulnerabilities in a timely manner" Mattis said earlier this year, explaining the president's changes.
Analysts say that the new authorities have allowed commanders to move more quickly to take the lead in battles. The Pentagon said it is still investigating air strike requests, but commanders closest to the battle can now approve those attacks.
Critics had said that Obama was too restrictive, demanding authorization from the White House even for small troop increases or changes in the advisers on the battlefield.
"Target approval was too high and too slow," said Michael Barbero, a retired army lieutenant general who served three trips in Iraq. "That has changed."
Still, it is almost impossible to predict how the war with ISIS would have developed without Trump's changes.
Even before Trump took office, US officials had begun to make some changes.
Lt. General Stephen Townsend, who recently completed a tour as the main commander of the Baghdad-based coalition, issued a directive in December that brought the advisers closer to the combat units they were supporting to capitalize on the progress Iraqi forces were making. in Mosul.
By putting the advisors later with the Iraqis, it allowed much more agility and much more clarity in the decision-making process, "Colonel Pat Work, US adviser in Iraq, said in an interview after returning to the United States. Earlier this year …
The air strikes in Iraq and Syria increased dramatically, but it is not clear if that is the result of new authorities or progress that ground forces would have had, however.The amount of bombs and other Weapons dropped in both countries increased 65% to 36,351 in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2016, according to US Army statistics.
Since then, bombings have been reduced as the The number of targets in Iraq and Syria has decreased, and the Pentagon is also considering reducing the number of trainers and advisers in the region.
The chaos of war often makes It is difficult to identify a single factor for success or failure.
"There was much more than bombs and there was much more to this than any individual decision," said Work.
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