By Thomas Watkins, AFP
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon presented the White House with possible new battle plans Monday to defeat the Islamic State group, after President Donald Trump demanded top brass find additional ways to destroy the jihadists. A pillar of Trump’s campaign was to quicken the fight against IS, which despite losing thousands of fighters still controls parts of northern Syria and Iraq, and he berated Barack Obama’s administration for taking too long to do so. Trump had claimed to have a secret plan to defeat the brutal extremists, but never disclosed what this might be.
He repeatedly pledged to “bomb the hell” out of them and even threatened to kill family members of suspected IS fighters. Shortly after taking office, the new president gave the Pentagon 30 days to review progress to date and develop a comprehensive plan to “totally obliterate” IS. A U.S.-led coalition has been bombing the jihadists in Iraq and Syria since late summer 2014, while also deploying Western commandos to train and advise local forces. The initial draft of the review is now complete, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented the findings to Trump’s top national security advisors. The options outlined in the classified document are preliminary and need to be further refined, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis. “It is about the rapid defeat of ISIS,” Davis said. “We’re going to continue to have a dialogue with our chain of command going forward and developing this plan.” The proposals will likely outline the possibility of sending more U.S. troops to the Middle East and could see the Pentagon taking a more aggressive stance in other key areas. “This is not about Syria and Iraq, it’s about a trans-regional threat,” General Joe Dunford, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Washington audience last week. “In this particular case, we’re talking about ISIS, but it’s also Al-Qaeda and other groups that present a trans-regional threat.” Dunford stressed the importance of renewed military action coming alongside diplomatic and political efforts. “All of us who have participated in these conflicts over the last 15 years realize that anything we do on the ground has to be in the context of political objectives or it’s not going to be successful,” Dunford said.