Operation Inherent Resolve - 2017 - Trump
On the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump demurred when asked to outline his war plan to defeat the so-called Islamic State terror group, arguing he wasn’t going to tip his hand to America’s foes by revealing his intentions. When it came to a war plan, candidate Trump offered just three tactics: intensifying the bombing of the Islamic State, seizing control of oilfields in Iraq, and recruiting NATO to invade strongholds in the Middle East to “knock the hell out of ISIS.”
By early 2017 forces backed by NATO members Turkey and the United States were slowly moving on Raqqa, the headquarters of Da-esh in Syria. The Turkish proxies were largely Turkoman Syrians, and the American proxies were largely Kurdish Syrians. Neither nationality had a sigificant presence in Raqqa, a Sunni Arab city, so the matter of who and what would govern Raqqa after it was liberated remained an open question. Both the Turks and the Kurds were more interested in fighting each other than Da-esh, but the small American force was postured to discourge such action.
Turkish forces were ready to work with the US-led coalition on the operation to liberate Raqqa, which is Daesh's de facto capital in Syria, provided the YPG was not involved. Ankara's position was that the inclusion of the US-backed YPG in any operation to take Raqqa from Daesh was unacceptable.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Fellow in New America's International Security Program, noted 08 March 2017 that "The US military has one simple binary objective to achieve in Syria: defeating Daesh. Anything else is considered peripheral and a distraction from the mission at hand. This myopic approach is a recipe for future disaster.... rank and file PKK fighters believe that the fight against Daesh is not an end in itself, but the first step in a continuum of a struggle for independence, and more than likely the prelude to the ultimate battle: fighting the Turks.... U.S. military commanders believe that ultimately they can influence the SDF's behaviour and temper their territorial ambitions in Syria."
On 03 February 2017, Trump turned to his generals for a detailed military strategy, and he signed an executive order instructing members of his Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to come up with a plan within 30 days - one that can be implemented immediately.
In book "The Field of Fight", which was published July 2017 and co-authored with conservative historian Michael Ledeen, Flynn offered what he described as “a winning strategy” to defeat IS and al-Qaida, one relying more on military muscle than the technology-driven and drone-strike policy favored by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
In "The Field of Fight", Flynn says the full weight of American power should be brought to bear on the jihadists, much as the United States did in the Second World War to defeat its foes. Flynn also argued for cutting ties with any foreign powers deemed to be assisting the jihadists indirectly or otherwise, including traditional Gulf allies. If the countries sheltering jihadists won’t eradicate them, then American forces should march in and do so, he argued.
Pentagon planners said much had changed tactically since Flynn wrote The Field of Fight. The Pentagon claims U.S.-led airstrikes have killed up to 75 percent of IS fighters, including 180 top commanders. The terror group’s ability to replenish itself with foreign recruits has been choked. The so-called caliphate has been shrunk thanks to ground action by allies, including Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish militias and reconstituted Iraqi state forces.
About 100 soldiers with the 75th Army Ranger Regiment under Operation Noble Lance were deployed in and around Manbij, Syria, with Stryker armored fighting vehicles. About 300 Marines arrived in Syria in arly March 2017 to provide additional capabilities for allied forces working to push Islamic State forces from their de facto capital of Raqqa. The additional capabilities provided by the Marines include artillery fire to give cover to locals battling the militants. It is unclear wehther this deployment is under Noble Lance or Inherent Resolve.
The new plan by the US to counter Islamic State in Syria and Iraq involves the deployment of 1,000 soldiers to Kuwait. By 10 March 2017 the plan was awaiting final approval from the administration, but US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, had already received permission for deployment from Army leaders, should the plan be signed.
US forces appeared to be operating under rules of engagement focused on the Inherent Right of Self-Defense. They engage targes when "there is reasonable belief that a person(s) poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to DoD persons. Self-defense includes defense of other DoD persons in the vicinity." The also use force in defense of non-DoD persons in the vicinity when directly related to the assigned activity or mission. It appeared that US forces did not attack advesary forces that do not pose an imminent threat to US or friendly forces.
As of 01 March 2017, the US had conducted 14,711 strikes in Iraq and Syria using either fighter, attack, bomber, rotary wing or remotely piloted aircraft. That air campaign, along with the ground fight, had reduced the estimated number of IS fighters from more than 30,000 in 2015 to 12,000 to 15,000 today, according to Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the ground commander in Iraq for counter-IS coalition forces.
On May 19, 2017 the Department of the Army announced the summer 2017 deployment of approximately 250 soldiers from the III Corps Headquarters stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, to Iraq and Kuwait, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. As part of the regular rotation of forces, III Corps will replace XVIII Airborne Corps as the headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat ISIS.
"III Corps is ready for this important mission. We will build upon the success of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The Phantom Corps looks forward to maintaining the momentum of the campaign as CJTF-OIR with more than 60 coalition nations and partner organizations," said III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II.
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