Since last Friday when Congress granted the waiver to retired General Jim Mattis to assume the role as defense secretary there has been an uptick in the deaths of Islamist militants.
Coordinated attacks like the ones that have been taking out Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters take time to plan, and no, Secretary Mattis wasn’t there for the planning. Still, one gets the sense that just by Team Obama handing off the baton to Team Trump the U.S. has gotten more serious—and lethal.
For instance, last Friday, according to Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, U.S. airstrikes took out more than 100 Al-Qaeda fighters in a Syrian training camp. Additionally, U.S. airstrikes took out more than 10 boats on the Tigris River used by ISIS to flee Mosul.
When Mattis, at long last, arrived at the Pentagon on Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve bombed the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq 31 times. Raqqa, ISIS’s capital, was especially hammered, taking 22 of the hits.
While this certainly seems like an impressively successful weekend in the war against Islamist militants, it is merely a glimpse of the much larger campaign that is to come with Mattis in the Pentagon. Mattis, who was the head of Central Command from 2010 to 2013, once called President Obama’s war on ISIS “unguided by a sustained policy or sound strategy [and is] replete with half-measures.”
The world will soon be afforded the opportunity to see what a sustained strategy carried out by full measures looks like.
Worth noting, coalition nations besides the United States that have conducted strikes in Iraq include the Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Syria, coalition nations that have conducted strikes besides the United States, are Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
But will those nations play a larger role in the fight? Early indications are that at least some understand they are going to need to.
Aside from presiding over the flurry of military operations, Mattis also conducted some diplomacy. He reportedly called British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who have expressed concerns over President Trump’s tough talk about NATO’s contributions to the fight against ISIS and the individual NATO member states’ failing to meet their obligation to commit at least two percent of their respective GDPs to collective security.
In his call with Fallon, Mattis “emphasized the United States’ unshakeable commitment to NATO” and thanked him for Britain’s willingness to meet and go beyond the 2 percent GDP commitment. Secretary General Stoltenberg just weeks ago applauded Britain’s example and urged other NATO countries to keep increasing defense spending. He said of Britain’s increased spending, “By doing so you lead by example. It’s good to see that other allies are now following you and they are starting to increase defence spending. They still have a long way to go but are starting to move in the right direction. More defence spending in Europe is important for the transatlantic bond, for fair burden-sharing between Europe and the United States.”
I think it’s pretty safe to assume at this point that in the months and years to come Secretary Mattis will be issuing more death sentences to Islamists and more thank-yous to allies for increased help.
And that is a very good thing for American security.