Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Trump Calling for Pentagon Plan to Hit ISIS Harder | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55366437

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis greeted President Trump at the reviewing stand during the inaugural parade on Friday. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Washington- The White House is drafting a presidential directive that calls on Defense Secretary James N. Mattis to devise plans to more aggressively strike ISIS, which could include American artillery on the ground in Syria and Army attack helicopters to support an assault on the group’s capital, Raqqa, officials said.

President Trump, who is to make his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief on Friday, will demand that the new options be presented to him within 30 days, the officials said. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly said that he had a secret plan to defeat ISIS, but he also said that he would give his commanders a month to come up with new options.

The White House is also expected to press for a review of the United States nuclear posture — one that retains all three legs of the nuclear arsenal with weapons aboard bombers and submarines and in underground missile silos — as well as a review of how to achieve the president’s goal of fielding a “state of the art” antimissile system.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump pledged to expand the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and a draft directive calls for steps to improve the military’s readiness to fight on short notice.

The directive to identify new ways to hasten the demise of ISIS, has been widely anticipated by military commanders, who have begun drafting classified options to increase the pressure on the militant group, especially in Raqqa and Mosul, the stronghold in Iraq.

Work on the directive was described by several current and former officials who are close to the White House and who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the administration’s internal deliberations. The White House had no comment.

The man charged with overseeing this re-examination of American defense is Mr. Mattis, a retired Marine Corps four-star general who commanded American forces in the Middle East and will be working in partnership with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The men have known each other for years and Mr. Mattis used to be General Dunford’s commanding officer while in the Marines.

Mr. Mattis will face multiple challenges. As an emissary to longstanding allies in Asia and Europe, he has staked out a position as the Trump administration’s reassurer-in-chief.

One of Mr. Mattis’s first moves as defense secretary was to phone the NATO secretary general to assure him that he strongly supported the alliance that Mr. Trump has criticized as “obsolete.” Mr. Mattis will fly to Asia next week on a trip to allay concerns in Japan and South Korea that the United States might abandon longstanding commitments to their security.

A week after that, Mr. Mattis is expected to make another reassurance trip — this one to Europe — to meet with counterparts at NATO in Brussels and then at a security conference in Munich.

Lawmakers and even some members of the military are hoping that Mr. Mattis can also serve as a counterweight on some of the new administration’s more hard-line positions. In a classified operations center at one Special Operations headquarters, a photo of Mr. Mattis is taped to a board with various captions written underneath. On Thursday morning, the caption read: “Watch over us.”

During his first visit to the Pentagon, Mr. Trump will conduct a ceremonial swearing-in of Mr. Mattis and is expected to sign the new directives and have a short meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Mattis appear to have some positive chemistry. They were seen chatting warmly on the reviewing stand during the inaugural parade. The new commander-in-chief relishes referring to “Mad Dog” Mattis at every opportunity, even though the retired general does not like that nickname and insists it is no more than a media invention.

And while they agree on the need for more military spending, some of the defense secretary’s views are at odds with his new boss, including his skepticism of Russia’s intentions, his traditional support for allies and flat opposition to the use of torture in interrogating terrorists.

The day before Mr. Mattis came to work at the Defense Department, he issued a statement to the Pentagon work force that cast the United States as a bulwark of the international order and the guardian of important alliances. In contrast to the “America First” oratory emanating from the White House, Mr. Mattis vowed that the Pentagon would work “for an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.”

The New York Times