During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he had a great health care plan, a great infrastructure plan and a secret plan to defeat ISIS. We now know that all of that was a lie. On ISIS, he signed an executive order after the inauguration calling on the military to submit a plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. In late February, General Mattis submitted a preliminary secret plan.
Another outrageous lie Trump told during the campaign was suggesting that President Obama was the “founder of ISIS” and Hillary Clinton its co-founder. That was based on his assumption that the way Obama ended the war in Iraq created the opening for ISIS to establish territory in that country as part of their caliphate.
All of that was going on as the U.S. military worked with Iraq to reclaim large swaths of territory from ISIS – leading to the final battle to retake Mosul. Once again, Trump wasn’t impressed. He claimed that the military offensive in Mosul was actually an elaborate, international conspiracy to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign and suggested it was a “total disaster” because it wasn’t kept secret.
I say all that because since the election, Trump has gone completely silent about what is happening with ISIS in Mosul. Yesterday we got another report that probably explains that silence.
Islamic State fighters are in disarray and struggling to fend off a rapid offensive by Iraqi forces to recapture Mosul and expel the militants from their last major stronghold in the country, a top U.S. military official said.
“They’re lacking purpose motivation and direction,” Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin said in a phone interview from Baghdad. “I’ve never seen them so disorganized.”
The pace of the battle reflects dramatic improvements in Iraq’s military and its ability to coordinate operations with a U.S.-led air campaign, which is pounding the militants at a record pace.
“You’re watching ISIS be annihilated,” Martin said of the militant group.
In other words, everything Trump said about ISIS in Iraq and the battle to re-take Mosul was wrong.
Given that history of offensive lies, silence and miscalculations, it is a bit alarming to learn that the Trump administration is likely to send 1,000 more ground troops into Syria ahead of the Raqqa offensive against ISIS after railing against military involvement in the Middle East during the campaign. In addition, they have reversed an Obama administration policy of limiting the CIA’s paramilitary role and given them new authority to conduct drone attacks against suspected militants.
It would be helpful to hear someone in the administration outline their overall counterterrorism policy and put these actions in context. Given all of the above, combined with the disastrous raid in Yemen, trust in their decision-making on these matters is hard to come by. Merely saying the words, “radical Islamic terrorism” is not enough.