Battling ISIS was a major point in Trump’s campaign, and after a little more than a month in office, he is taking strides to live up to his promises. A new plan is in place, and Trump met with advisors to discuss the details.
While they are yet to be released, there are clear signs of a shift in policy and strategy on the war against terror, so let’s review what we know so far in an attempt to ascertain how the Trump Administration will proceed in the Middle East.
One of Trump’s first acts as president was signing an executive order that required his security team to present a plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days. The time limit has passed, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented the details of the plan to Trump.
In Mattis’s own words, the plan is “preliminary.” It’s also still classified, so the details will continue to elude civilian eyes while it undergoes likely revision. Ultimately, what we can discern at this point is limited, but we can look at the narratives surrounding Trump and his advisors to paint our own preliminary picture of how our military will proceed.
A Shift in Focus
The biggest change we’ll see between Obama and Trump in this regard is a change in focus. Trump has made it clear that he is more concerned with combating ISIS than Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Whether this stance is in response to the changes in Aleppo over the last years or simply to further distance himself from Obama, we can safely assume that Trump will follow a significantly different strategy in the Middle East.
Shifting focus from Syria to ISIS will do two important things. First, it will enable us to increase military pressure against the terrorist group without the necessity of committing more resources. Additionally, it may improve our ability to unite additional powers in the region against ISIS.
Let’s talk about committing resources. It’s still fairly uncertain whether or not Trump will send ground troops into the fight against ISIS. His rhetoric so far has made it seem that he would prefer to reduce our involvement in foreign conflicts, so we may assume that ground forces will not soon be deployed. That is obviously something that is subject to change, but it is a defensible assumption at this point.
What Trump is more likely to support is a reallocation of resources. The bombs that were dropped on Syria for the last two years under Obama can be repurposed against ISIS, allowing for an increased offensive that won’t expand military spending or risk additional American lives. It could prove to be a strong move from Trump that would keep campaign promises in a way Obama never could.
Trump has also made it clear that he wants to push for an expanded coalition against ISIS. This may include minor powers in the region, but it mostly refers to Russia. He’s talked frequently about improving relations with Russia, and he likely sees the battle against ISIS as a golden opportunity.
It could prove to be the largest cooperative military effort between the two countries since WWII. The action alone would not be enough to repair the relationship between the two countries, but it could prove the stepping stone that Trump needs to justify policy changes that might favor Russia.
This is where he stands to take on some of his biggest criticism, but if Trump can leverage the art of the deal correctly, a joint fight against ISIS could prove the turning point that brought Russia back into the international community. It all starts with switching pressure away from Assad and towards ISIS, and there are many obstacles, but it will certainly be one of Trump’s top political goals.
Even with the most optimistic outlook, the fight against ISIS will be messy. We can trust that Trump will increase our military presence in that battle, but whether he will do it by adding to our overall military involvement or through the reallocation of already committed resources is still unclear.
What we can assume is that he wants to score military and political victories through his plan, and the consequences will be far-reaching. The critics will continue to blast every decision Trump makes, just for the sake of it. For the more rational mind, there might actually be a light of hope in Middle Eastern conflict for the first time in far too long.
~ American Liberty Report