Monday, February 27, 2017

Defense Department delivers plan to defeat ISIS to White House

By Loree Lewis,, February 27, 201

Image from article, with caption: President Donald J. Trump speaks with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other senior leaders of the armed forces at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017.

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary James Mattis will brief senior administration officials Monday on a classified plan to defeat ISIS, the Pentagon said.
The classified plan, which Pentagon spokesperson Navy Capt. Jeff Davis described Monday as a “framework for a broader plan,” presents options to destroy ISIS and counter other extremist groups, including al Qaeda and the Taliban, in Iraq, Syria and beyond.
“It draws upon all elements of national power – diplomatic, financial, cyber, intelligence, public diplomacy,” Davis said. “And it’s been drafted in close coordination with our interagency partners.”
Mattis is presenting the plan, which is a written report with accompanying graphics, to members of the National Security Council Principals Committee on Monday afternoon. Davis said it is not a “check the block” kind of plan, wherein President Donald Trump would choose one route to pursue. It will include discussion of authorities, authorizations and resources.
The review comes at a decisive moment in the campaign to defeat ISIS, as the group is under attack in both its Iraq and Syria strongholds, of Mosul and Raqqa respectively, after losing its stronghold in Libya, of Sirte. The lead U.S. commander in the fight, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said in early February that the seizure of both cities could be completed by August.
The anti-ISIS fight is being waged “by, with and through” local partners on the ground and this strategy isn’t expected to change, even as the White House weighs sending more troops to Syria to accelerate the taking of Raqqa, where they would join a small number of largely Special Operations forces, and military leaders talk of an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq even after the fall of Mosul and a potential NATO training mission for the Iraqi security forces.
In Syria, the U.S. will need to decide whether to arm local Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG (People’s Protection Units), who comprise part of the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) despite objections from NATO ally Turkey. Turkey, which shares its southern border with Syria and allows the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition to use its Incirlik Air Base, regards the YPG as an offshoot of a terrorist organization, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which has fought a three decade on-and-off insurgency inside its borders.
“We have noted in the past that the only force that is capable of retaking Raqqa quickly is the Syrian Arab Coalition, with the SDF,” Davis said. “Any other answer would require a longer lead line.”
The Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) is the Arab, rather than Kurdish, component of the SDF. The plan addresses issues of diplomacy with players in the conflict, including Turkey and Russia, which is allied to Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to give any details on the meeting of the NSC Principals Committee, saying that the White House is focused on a newly rolled out budget proposal that includes a 10 percent boost in military spending.
Shortly after taking office, Trump signed a Jan. 28 memorandum requesting a “preliminary draft” of a “comprehensive strategy” to defeat ISIS, including guidelines to fund the plan, within 30-days.

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