Trump strategy for defeating ISIS is working

Kori Schake:
Defeating the Islamic State was candidate Trump’s top national-security priority, one of the few policy issues on which he was consistent. While his claim to have a secret plan — and that keeping it secret was good strategy — was risible to national security experts, his policy goals were and are consistent. American effort should focus on fighting the Islamic State. Regime change to push Bashar al-Assad out of power was not only a lesser objective, but counterproductive to a stable end-state for Syria that prevents terrorism and too costly given Russia and Iran’s support for the regime. Stability is to be prioritized over humanitarian relief or democracy promotion. Russia is to be palliated, their interests supported.

To many observers, the emerging approach looks like the Obama strategy only better resourced....

I have the sense the administration actually is making a departure from the Obama approach, and sees bigger game afoot. The White House may not yet have formally agreed on an anti-Islamic State strategy, but their incremental choices are adding up to a coherent approach that departs from the Obama approach in four important ways.

First, they are prioritizing speed.
President Obama’s strategy envisioned a years-long campaign to defeat the Islamic State. While that approach had the advantage of affixing responsibility for outcomes on the countries of the region and incentivized them to develop the governing capacity essential to stabilizing the territory once regained, it paid the very steep price of humanitarian disaster for Iraqis and Syrians in the Islamic State’s control, escalating pressure on surrounding governments taking in refugees and buffeted by violence, decimation of moderate opposition within Syria, further radicalization within Western societies, and disaffection for our efforts by publics in the region. As Tillerson said, “Our end goal in this phase is the regional elimination of ISIS through military force.” The choices President Trump has made are dramatically picking up the pace of operations. So much so that some have begun to worry we will be the victims of battlefield success, winning before we have stabilization alliances and forces in place.

Second, they are committing the United States to a long-term involvement.
President Obama prioritized minimization — leaving responsibility for the victory and subsequent stabilization on local allies....

Third, they are clear about the priority being assisting the countries we want to win the wars now underway. The White House is less conflicted than the Obama administration about authoritarian tendencies, civilian casualties, and domestic human rights records of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other countries fighting insurgent upheavals and Iranian destabilization in the Middle East. They have unambiguously chosen a side in the fight....

Fourth, they are laying the foundation for an anti-Iran coalition once the Islamic State problem has been solved
The operational tempo has certainly increased.  One of the reasons is that the White House is no longer micromanaging the fight with amateurs.  The military has been unleashed to use its expertise in fighting and winning wars.


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