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29 Mar 2017

Trump's anti-ISIS strategy effective?

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his counterparts from the countries that make up the coalition against ISIS, reminding them that defeating ISIS remains Washington's priority.

The Trump administration recently completed a full-scale review of the anti-ISIS strategy that was implemented under the Obama administration.

However, analysts say that there is not much difference between the new strategy and the old.

In context

Trump's strategy against ISIS
Augmenting the Obama administration's approach


Augmenting the Obama administration's approach

After reviewing the Obama administration's approach, the Trump administration took forward the same approach, albeit with renewed momentum.

Taking a more active approach, the Trump administration has deployed additional US troops and fire power inside Syria. It has also stepped up aid to local anti-ISIS fighters.

Drone strikes have increased in frequency and US military advisers are playing more active roles in the region.

Executive Order

Trump gives Pentagon 30 days to plan anti-ISIS strategy

In January'17, Trump signed an executive order, directing the US Secretary of Defence to submit a preliminary proposal on how to defeat ISIS.

Sources said the plan sought to "isolate and delegitimize ISIS and its radical Islamist ideology."

It also sought to find "new coalition partners in the fight against ISIS" and empower coalition partners.

He gave the Pentagon 30 days to do so.

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Pentagon submits strategy


Pentagon submits strategy

Secretary of Defence James Mattis submitted the proposal to defeat ISIS to President Trump in Feb'17.

The plan envisioned allocating more ground troops inside Syria to battle ISIS. It also included plans to step up logistical and artillery support to US allies in their fight against ISIS.

The Pentagon said the plan also extends beyond Iraq and Syria.

US sets-up first ground base in Syria

In March'17, troops from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, quietly moved into Syria to set up an artillery support base, which includes mechanized assault units as well as US infantry troops on the ground. This is the first such US-move since the war began.


More autonomy for commanders?

Reports indicate that under the Trump administration, more autonomy has been given to the Pentagon and battlefield commanders. Red-tape has been reduced, minimizing authorization from the White House and Department of Defence.

In several regions commanders have been given full autonomy to authorize air-strikes without higher approval.

While this tactic improves army efficiency, it takes a toll on humanitarian rights in the region.

No concern for casualties


No concern for casualties

Under Obama, the civilian casualty count from the US attacks were already very high.

However, numbers have sharply increased under Trump. Recently, 200 Iraqi civilians were killed in air strikes against ISIS in Mosul.

Days later, 30 civilians were killed in an air strike in Raqqa.

In March, dozens of civilians were killed when the US blew up a Mosque in Aleppo.

Obama escalated, Trump escalates further

In an attempt to show that the Democrats had a equal will to defeat ISIS, air-strikes under the Obama administration began increasing in frequency since October'16. However, under Trump, these attacks have skyrocketed, nearly doubling that of the last-3 months under Obama, in January alone.


Is there any tangible strategy?

Questions like who will hold territory liberated from ISIS still remain. Russia and Syria will not allow foreign troops to occupy liberated Syrian soil.

The Trump administration also said it was willing to allow establishment of safe zones inside Syria, manned by Turkish and Kurdish forces.

This may not be acceptable to Assad, and may lead to a broader international war.

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