ISTANBUL — The operation against Islamic State (IS) militants will intensify, moving on from the previous phase aimed at weakening the terrorist group to “annihilation,” said US Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Sunday.
“Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against Isis. It is a threat to all civilized nations. And the bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot,” Mattis said, using another acronym for the IS.
“We have already shifted from attrition tactics, where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them,” he added.
One of the goals of the operation now is to prevent the return of foreign IS fighters from returning to their places of residence outside the borders of Iraq and Syria, so as to prevent them from inciting crimes there.
“Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We’re not going to allow them to do so. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate,” Mattis explained.
Another point of concern in this “fight about ideas,” is to hinder the recruitment efforts of the IS.
“We’re going to shatter their sense of invincibility there in the physical caliphate,” he said. “That’s only one phase of this. Then we have the virtual caliphate, that they use the internet.”
“We have got to dry up their recruiting,” he said. “We have got to dry up their fundraising. The way we intend to do it is to humiliate them, to divorce them from any nation giving them protection, and humiliating their message of hatred, of violence. Anyone who kills women and children is not devout. They … cannot dress themselves up in false religious garb and say that somehow this message has dignity.”
Regarding the civilian casualties resulting from the ever intensifying fight, Mattis remarked that “civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation. We do everything humanly possible consistent with military necessity, taking many chances to avoid civilian casualties at all costs.”
“The American people and the American military will never get used to civilian casualties,” Mattis said. “And we will – we will fight against that every way we can possibly bring our intelligence and our tactics to bear.”
“People who have had tried to leave that city were not allowed to by Isis. We are the good guys. We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can,” he continued.
The latest Pentagon statement regarding the 100 civilians that were killed from the coalition strike in March blamed the IS militant presence and their booby traps inside the building for the coalition targeting the building. However, the only witnesses to survive the strike said that neither IS militants nor any booby-traps were present in the building which the people had chose as a safe haven amid the intense fighting.
The operation to oust IS militants from Mosul began on October of 2016. It is led by the Iraqi forces in conjunction with the US-led coalition forces. The operation advanced to the western half of the city in February following the declaration of liberation of the eastern half in January. The advancement into the Old City neighborhood in the western side has proved difficult, having been reduced to a crawling speed, which required opening a new front from earlier this month.