SecDef Mattis: Working Toward Merciless Annihilation of ISIS

By Faye Higbee

People have asked about the Pentagon’s strategy for defeating ISIS. On Friday, SecDef Mattis responded: “merciless annihilation.” (Which is totally a Mattis response.) The Pentagon is looking to stop ISIS fighters from scattering like cockroaches back to other countries after they lose their caliphate. He stood shoulder to shoulder with General Joseph Dunford, and Presidential Envoy to the ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk to explain the strategy to the Pentagon Press Corps.

“The foreign fighters are the strategic threat should they return home to Tunis, to Kuala Lumpur, to Paris, to Detroit. Wherever. By taking the time to deconflict, to surround and then attack, we carry out the annihilation campaign so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another.” James Mattis

President Trump reviewed the Pentagon report that was created after the DOD was ordered to complete a review of Obama’s previous strategy. Two things changed, according to Mattis: Trump delegated authority to the “right level to aggressively and in a timely manner move against enemy vulnerabilities.” The second thing was changing the tactical method from an “attrition fight” which simply shoved ISIS out of areas, to surrounding and destroying them.

Transplanting trouble

One of the difficulties with the attacks against ISIS has been if they escape and disperse into the rest of the world after the loss of territory. Returnees who attempt to go back to their country of origin and continue the fight are concerning, lest they manage to spur the formation of jihad networks in those countries and carry out attacks.

Those who are classed as “operational” jihadis are extremely dangerous. These are the ones who are dispatched back to their countries, or to new ones, and conduct attacks, whether as a group or the lone wolf style based on orders from the remnants of ISIS.

Then there are the jihadis who became disillusioned with ISIS, but still support the Caliphate and want to mentor young people in the ways of radical Islam. There are some disaffected jihadis as well, those who cannot return to their original countries.

That merciless annihilation

When Mattis was asked if the US will stay indefinitely in Syria, he said, “I’m not willing to sign up for that. We’re there to drive ISIS to its knees. … There’s got to be a political solution to the larger issues there. It’s not going to be U.S. troops at the point of a gun making that happen.”

The issues of stabilizing regions that have been ‘liberated’ and taking down the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria are formidable obstacles that are being addressed.

But if anyone can come up with a plan to drive ISIS to its knees, it’s General James Mattis.

“Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.” Gen. James Mattis before he became SecDef