The campaign against ISIS has dramatically accelerated over the past six months. Since 2014, when ISIS was at the height of its power, the group has lost about 78 percent of the territory it used to hold in Iraq, and about 58 percent of the territory it used to hold in Syria. They can no longer operate there.
“Nearly 30 percent of all the territory that has been retaken from ISIS – about 20,000 square kilometers – has actually happened in the last six months,” said Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk at a recent press conference. “Importantly, of all that territory that they have lost, they have not regained:”
“They have never been able to retake any of this ground and we’re going to make sure that that continues. Importantly – not just territory, but even more important, people. Five – almost 5 million people who had been living under ISIS are no longer living under ISIS. They have been liberated by coalition-enabled operations on the ground.”
This change is due to four key changes that were put in place very early in the administration of President Donald Trump, said Special Envoy McGurk.
First, the White House delegated tactical authority, from Washington, down through the chain of command to our commanders on the ground. That has made a tremendous difference in our ability to seize opportunities from ISIS.
Second, we now conduct a campaign of annihilation. Prior to a military operation, we surround the enemy so that foreign fighters in particular cannot escape. “Every foreign fighter that made its way into Syria and Iraq, we want to make sure that they can never make their way out of Syria and Iraq,” said Mr. McGurk.
Third, we look for ways to increase our burden-sharing from the coalition. In other words, every member contributes.
And finally, we engage every part of our government in the process to attack the enemy on every front, said Mr. McGurk.
“We’re taking advantage of opportunities, working not just in Iraq and Syria, but also to sever the financial connections and propaganda networks that continue to fuel terrorist groups like this.”