By Prudence Arobani
Soldiers of the Coalition of Countries Working to Defeat ISIS have surrounded the terrorist group with no way for its fighters to escape, U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis said.
Mattis said the onslaught approved by President Donald Trump would defeat the terror group and crush the idea that ‘ISIS is invincible’, according to the Department of Defence.
“Thanks to the leadership and authorities granted by President Trump, thanks to the spirit of dozens of nations committed to this fight, thanks to the nations whose troops have gone toe-to-toe with this terrorist group.
“We have retaken over 55 per cent of ISIS territory there in the core. Over four million people have been liberated and not one inch of territory seized from ISIS has been recaptured by them.
“Soon after taking office in January, Trump ordered a review of the effort against ISIS. Two changes came from that review:
“Delegation of authority to lower command levels, and the president directed 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. It’s truly an international effort against the brutal group,” Mattis said.
According to him, there are now 68 members in the counter-ISIS coalition.
He said those nations and affiliated organizations are sharing intelligence, providing troops and funds for combat and for the post-combat recovery.
The Defence Secretary explained that a total of 26 nations contributed more than 4,000 non-U.S. troops on the ground and in the air.
“Our recent coalition meetings in Brussels, Copenhagen and elsewhere reflect an energized campaign among contributing nations partnering with, of course, the Iraqi security forces in Iraq and the counter-ISIS forces in Syria,” Mattis said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Coalition’s effort had “reduced ISIS-held territory, limited their freedom of movement, destroyed a great deal of their leadership, reduced the flow of foreign fighters into and from the region, diminished their financial resources.
“And, I think, perhaps most importantly, we’ve undermined the credibility of their narrative that there is a physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria,” Dunford said.
In Iraq, U.S. and coalition forces provide equipment and intelligence to Iraqi security forces, the chairman said.
”Coalition pilots bomb ISIS targets and coalition advisors work with Iraqi leaders on the campaign.
“But it is the Iraqis paying most of the cost. In Mosul alone, they’ve suffered approximately 980 killed and over 6,000 wounded,” Dunford said of Iraqi losses in the fight against ISIS.
However, the Iraqi forces have gotten much better and far more competent, the Chairman said.
He added that in Syria, working with Turkey and partnered forces, the coalition has sealed the Turkish-Syrian border, stemming the flow of foreign fighters, weapons and money to ISIS.
The general said at its peak there were about 1,500 foreign fighters crossing that border each month, adding that this has dropped to less than 100.
“We’re also taking the fight to ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, attacking their affiliates and any groups that claim allegiance,” Dunford said.
“ISIS is a transregional threat, and we have a global approach.
“I’m working very closely with more than 60 of my counterparts to expand the coalition that we have in dealing with ISIS, and our priority clearly is to prevent attacks against the homeland.
“Our strategic approach is to cut the connectivity between ISIS affiliates and associates, and that’s specifically the foreign fighter flow, their illicit resources and their message,” he said.
Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS said that “the effort is more than a military effort – it is a whole of government approach.
“This is enabling an Anaconda-like approach to suffocate ISIS of its territory, finances, propaganda and ability to move foreign fighters,” he said.