Donald Trump Will Defeat ISIS by Andrew Exum, The Atlantic / Defense One
And it will be mostly due to the work of his predecessor.
The dysfunction at the highest levels of the American government right now obscures a dramatic reality: Donald Trump is going to defeat the Islamic State, and Americans need to be fine with that.
Like most of the people reading this, I have been so completely absorbed by the drama at the White House over the past week that its been easy to lose track of what’s taking place on the ground in the Middle East, where U.S. troops, diplomats, and intelligence professionals continue to work by, with, and through local forces to destroy the Islamic State.
When President Obama turned the affairs of state over to President Trump on January 20th, the Islamic State was in full retreat across Iraq and Syria. This was no accident: In the fall of 2015, while I was serving as the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East policy shop, the Obama administration ramped up its campaign against the group—and began to see the effects of that escalation when Iraqi forces retook Ramadi in December of 2015.
Over the course of a very difficult summer of 2015—one in which both Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria had fallen under the black flags of the Islamic State—civilian and military planners noticed an opportunity: For the first time since their campaign began in 2014, the U.S. and coalition forces surrounding the Islamic State were in a position to squeeze it from all directions.
When I came back into the Department of Defense in 2015 after a two-year sojourn away, I was struck by how well the Islamic State moved men, weapons, and materiel across the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. This allowed them to apply pressure to the places where the forces in opposition were weakest. It also allowed them to mass their own limited forces in places where they could overmatch their opposition.
If we could figure out a way to apply pressure to the group from multiple directions and cut off its key supply routes, that would create real dilemmas for them.
And so that’s what we did…