Nearly absent from the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times – or the Wall Street Journal and Fox News for that matter – is the grinding success against ISIS which has been unfolding across Iraq and Syria. The Never Trumpers will argue that this is just the natural unfolding of the Obama strategy, but this is not the president who announced year-in-advance timelines for withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, who drew a meaningless red line in Syria, who called ISIS the Jayvees, and who refused to acknowledge Islamic terrorism. Substantial differences are responsible for the success:

1. Without significantly changing the rules of engagement designed to protect civilians, Trump has empowered the military commanders in the theater to make operational decisions. This has entailed embedding liaison officers with Iraqi and Syrian Kurd forces to coordinate front-line intelligence and call in air strikes. The Americans do not initiatie direct “boots on the ground” combat, but are sometimes engaged. American casualties have been few; the ability to bring air power to bear has been decisive.

2. Coalition forces have adopted a “no escape” policy. ISIS-controlled cities have been surrounded and escape routes cut off, leaving ISIS fighters with a choice between surrender and death. (Some admittedly get both.)  The bad effect – resistance is stiff with heavy civilian and coalition casualties. The good effect – ISIS combatants in Iraq are being eliminated in Iraq rather than being allowed to survive to fight in Syria; few are surviving to return home to fight in Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan, or Pakistan.  Claims of 20,000 or more ISIS fighters killed cannot be substantiated, but are reasonable, given the firepower and targeting.

3. In the complicated patchwork of Iraq and Syria, the Trump administration has adopted a “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” policy on the battlfield. In Iraq, Iran-oriented militias have taken blocking posiitons outside of the major cities while the Iraqis have done the urban fighting; In Syria, we have agreed to “deconfliction zones” where Russian-supported Assad forces have pressured ISIS from the south while (against Turkey’s wishes) we have equipped the Kurds who have attacked the ISIS Capital at Raqqa from the north. This is quite unlike the Obama administration which was paralyzed by the conflicting objectives of the Turks, the Iranians, the Russians, and the Sunni Arabs. For Trump’s generals it is simple – destroy ISIS.

The results since Trump’s innauguration:

– After long delays, the liberation of Mosul – the second largest city in Iraq with some 2,000,000 people – was completed in July;

– The Free Syrian Army (largely the Kurds) has recaptured half of the ISIS capital in Raqqa, Syria, anticipating complete victory in a few months;

– The Russians and the US have agreed to enforce operational areas and procedures to avoid direct conflict while focusing on the defeat of ISIS. Assad’s forces follow the Russian lead; the Free Syrian Army follows ours.

And what will follow:

– Mosul will require $1 billion of rebuilding infrastructure and housing. With the temporary disloction of some 800,000 residents and the death of thousands, a generation has been traumatized. Years of school were missed under ISIS rule; everybody has witnessed public executions and general brutality; and the nine month campaign brought starvation and use of civilians as “human shields”. The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad appears to understand that leadership of the rebuilding must be led by local Sunnis, but the task is immense.

– The tragic Syrian civil war with its 400,000 civilian deaths, 6 million internally dislaced, and 5 million external refugees has real hope of being over. While the “Assad must go” refrain has occasional resurrection, it is unlikely. Mopping up will require agreement on who bears the brunt of cleaning up ISIS elements who have retreated to the Deir Ezzor region of eastern Syria – and gets the oil there; who will hunt down the remnants of the al Queda affiliate; how much of the territory that they have captured will the Kurds be allowed to keep; and what form of government will the US-organized Arab Free Syrian Army establish. The political aftermath can be worked out if Trump is allowed to deal with Putin. Those seeking justice can keep waiting.

– The global ISIS brand has been badly tarnished. The great majority of the thousands of zealots who flocked to fight for the caliphate in 2014, 2015, and 2016 have achieved their martyrdom, but their earthly reward was transitory. Few new recruits are arriving. The affiliates in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South Asia who pledged their allegiance to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi (who may have himself been killed in a Russian airstrike) will return to their local grievances.

– In all likelihood, the Trump administration will not be concerned about the conservative/authoritarian direction of  government in Turkey or Egypt, the tactics of the Saudi’s for restoring order in Yemen or Quatar, or the many other ancient squabbles in the region. Unlike the Bush and Obama years, we will not be there to spread the Enlightenment or foster an Islamic Reformation.

Now, about North Korea,,,,,

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www.RightinSanfrancisco.com  – 8/11/17