Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shared more wisdom, inspiration and insight with the U.S. military on Wednesday morning when he spoke at the Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
“We’re going to crush ISIS,” Mattis told a packed room. The defense secretary had been asked what “winning” in the Middle East looks like. His answer did not disappoint.
Mattis said the U.S. military is going to “fight battles of annihilation.” This way, foreign fighters – terrorists – “can’t get out.”
“When the [Trump] administration came in, the direction was to change [the fight on terrorism] in two ways,” Mattis said. One directive was to accelerate the fight, Mattis said. And the second change was essentially to destroy terrorists rather than push them to retreat to other areas and possibly create new terror havens there.
“Both in Iraq and Syria, due to the danger of foreign fighters returning home, [we’re now] trying to reduce this number [of terrorists]. I got that loud and clear. We changed our tactics to take the time to encircle the places they had strength [and] fight battles of annihilation so foreign fighters can’t get out,” Mattis said. “ISIS goes down.”
The U.S. is working with the government in Baghdad to “make sure Iraq doesn’t find itself with ISIS 2.0 coming back,” he added.
“All wars are local, and when we talk about that, the Middle East is not the Middle East,” he explained. “There’s one kind of fight going on in Iraq. […] There’s a different fight in Syria.”
As far as winning, Mattis explained that victory looks different in each area, too.
In Afghanistan, it’s about reinforcing and realigning troops to “train, advise and assist,” and eventually “replace ourselves over there.”
A victory there would look like the people and government of Afghanistan being able to combat any terrorism threats with their own security forces “for many years to come,” Mattis said.
Ultimately, the U.S. is now working toward “reducing the lure of this sort of terrorism, this murder we see going on,” and “trying to construct local solutions working by, with and through our allies.”