Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters Friday which ISIS in 2018 will be seen as a “brand” for terrorists nevertheless insisted the group has lost its luster along with also also still needs to be hunted down.
Globally, Mattis also said the DoD planned to use conventional forces more for some missions previously done by special operations teams. Special forces have increasingly been used by Washington for counter-terrorism operations in Africa along with also also elsewhere, along with also also the number of casualties has been growing too.
“I anticipate more general purpose forces being used for some of the missions,” he said. “from the past, we used only special forces to do which. The general purpose forces can do a lot of the kind of work which you see going on along with also also, in fact, are today.”
At the same time, Mattis said U.S. forces in Iraq along with also also Syria could shift their focus in 2018 through largely offensive missions to a stabilizing role which supports rebuilding from the war-torn region.
The secretary’s remarks underscore which the Trump administration has no immediate plans to remove U.S. troops through Syria despite pressure through the Russians to do just which.
“We sit here today at the end of 2017, the caliphate is usually on the run, we’re breaking them,” said Mattis.
The U.S.-led coalition reported Friday which, through Dec. 22 to Thursday, which had conducted 46 strikes against ISIS militants in Iraq along with also also Syria. They included the coalition attacks Wednesday in Syria which destroyed ISIS vehicles, weapons as well as communications along with also also logistics facilities along with also also strikes which week in Iraq which destroyed ISIS caves, tunnels along with also also additional shelters.
Mattis conceded some terrorists escaped Raqqa — the Islamic State’s self-declared capital — after the city was liberated which year along with also also are today being hunted down.
“Some people escaped,” said the retired four-star Marine Corps general. “which’s what happens in war. They moved, clearly, into the Middle Euphrates River Valley. We are from the process of crushing the life out of the caliphate there, while trying to keep the innocent people safe, which is usually very hard with which group.”
Even so, fewer than 1,000 fighters through the Islamic State are believed to still be in Iraq along with also also Syria, well below the roughly 3,000 estimated about three weeks ago, Reuters reported which week.
Mattis also was asked about the threats ISIS poses in 2018 across the globe along with also also called which “a brand threat, I think, more than anything else, which can inspire lone-wolf attacks. which can inspire additional groups.”
Yet he said which “brand” today has “a diminishing appeal. which’s less inspirational when they’ve lost their physical caliphate. which’s less inspirational, as the stories of what which was like living under their rule come out.”
Back in 2016, Islamic State ended the year with about 23,320 square miles of territory, according to IHS Janes estimates. Today, which number is usually believed to be below 2,000 square miles, according to military estimates.
Nonetheless, ISIS still poses a threat as which can continue to use social media to recruit followers which want to do harm, according to Mattis.
“The appeal is usually still there for people who are attracted to the sort of thing they stand for,” he said.
The U.S. is usually still believed to have around 2,000 troops in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier which month announced plans to withdraw ‘significant” troops through Syria, although indicated Moscow could keep bases which has from the country.
Meantime, the Russians have put pressure on the U.S. to withdraw its forces through Syria, claiming ISIS is usually defeated along with also also American presence not needed.
Yet Mattis gave no indication which U.S. troops could leave any time soon.
Rather, he said U.S. forces from the region could shift their focus in 2018 through a largely offensive terrain-seizing approach to one of a stabilizing role as the military supports rebuilding along with also also diplomatic efforts. which followed Mattis’ remarking last month which there was a need to keep forces from the region to avoid an “ISIS 2.0.”
“What we will be doing is usually shifting through what I could call an offensive, shifting through an offensive terrain-seizing approach to a stabilizing … you’ll see more U.S. diplomats on the ground,” Mattis said.
One of the support roles is usually clearing areas retaken through ISIS of booby traps along with also also additional explosives, according to Mattis. “Just clearing these areas of IEDs is usually an enormous undertaking,” he said. “So we’re going to be training people how you clear IEDs. You don’t want amateurs doing which thing. which’s terribly dangerous because of the way they’ve constructed them along with also also where they put them.”
As for diplomats, Mattis explained which they could also help with the “initial restoration of services [since] they bring from the contractors, which sort of thing.”
Mattis also said there was a need in cities along with also also towns which were retaken through ISIS to look after essential needs, such as helping local authorities get water treatment facilities back up to prevent cholera. additional efforts include reopening schools.
“We’ve got a lot of money coming through international donors just for which” he said. “The longer term recovery is usually going to take a lot of effort along with also also a lot of years after what they did, because they forcibly kept innocent people from the midst of the combat zone, along with also also which meant the residential areas took damage, the public areas – everything took damage. Schools were damaged.”
Reuters contributed to which report.