President Donald Trump called attention Saturday to the major gains U.S.-backed forces have made against the Islamic State, citing claims by a top American diplomat that the administration’s polices are directly responsible for that success.
Brett McGurk, the Department of State’s senior envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition, said Friday that Trump’s policies, including delegating decision-making to U.S. military commanders in the field, have “dramatically accelerated progress” against the militant group.
About a third of territory captured from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been taken in the past six months, according to McGurk.
Trump publicized that assessment on Twitter, sharing The Washington Post’s story, headlined, “Under Trump, gains against ISIS have ‘dramatically accelerated.'”
McGurk told reporters Friday that ISIS losses in Iraq and Syria add up to about 27,000 square miles of territory from the group’s peak holdings in 2015. About 8,000 square miles of that territory have been retaken under Trump, he said.
The anti-ISIS envoy said delegating authority to commanders in theater has allowed U.S. forces to be more responsive to changing conditions on the ground. The administration’s “campaign of annihilation” — promoted by Defense Secretary James Mattis — has put U.S.-backed forces on the verge of victory in Raqqa, the principal ISIS stronghold in Syria. McGurk said Friday he expects that 2,000 militants “most likely will die in Raqqa.”
McGurk, who was envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition during the Obama administration, said Trump’s polices have also lead to progress on the humanitarian front. The displacement of civilians in Syria and Iraq has nearly stopped, and hundreds of thousands of previously displaced people have been able to return to their homes in territory once controlled by ISIS, McGurk said.
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