Trump on ISIS

In just over two months, President Trump has faced numerous obstacles. One of those involves the war in the Middle East, which he has not handled responsibly.

While campaigning, Trump reiterated his desire to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). In a speech last August, he stated: “my administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cut off their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyber-warfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting.” Though most of this cannot feasibly be accomplished in just two months, or even in a year, Trump has yet to put forth a preliminary formal plan in regard to ISIS while in office.

Americans should have been wary of Trump’s ability to defeat ISIS when he was unable to reveal his plan for doing so during his campaign, despite constant reassurances that he had one. When questioned more recently as to why he would not describe this grand plan, the president simply said that he did have one but the enemy shouldn’t know what it was, and would know if he made it public. These empty reassurances made it easier for millions of Americans to put their faith in Trump during the campaign.

Trump has openly criticized the ongoing offensive against Mosul, a city in Iraq that ISIS seized two years ago. Shortly before the election, he went so far as to say that it was an international conspiracy aimed at aiding Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The then-candidate also called the Mosul offensive a “total disaster” that makes the United States look “dumb.” Such strong words indicate that Trump likely did not understand the gains made, primarily by Iraqi troops, in countering ISIS in and around Mosul. Though taking the city proved difficult – and for many soldiers, deadly – it is important to recognize that substantial progress against the Islamic State has been made in doing so.

Parts of Mosul, however, remain uncaptured and under siege. ISIS currently has roughly 400,000 civilians in these areas that it plans to use as human shields. Despite these potential setbacks, the Iraqi army, working with U.S. forces, expects to retake the entire city. Given this positive outlook, it seems strange that Donald Trump would publically criticize the offensive. His criticism is even more odd when one takes into account his stance on veterans during his campaign. Some of his remarks about the offensive for Mosul seemed disrespectful to the families of soldiers killed in it. Despite Trump’s criticisms, he has continued to provide U.S. troops to fight in Mosul.

Some actions for which Trump bears some responsibility have proved disastrous for the people in Mosul. Currently the U.S. and Iraq are investigating whether an American-led coalition air strike caused the deaths of more than 100 there on March 17. If the U.S. is responsible, this will be one of the greatest losses of civilian lives since coalition airstrikes began in 2014. By killing civilians, even if by accident, Trump’s military decisions are likely aiding the process of radicalization among Iraqis more than effectively fighting global terrorism. Some of Trump’s actions against the Islamic State, and his attitude toward our current military offensive, have served to reinforce the belief that he is unlikely to follow through on many of his campaign promises and the fear that he is unfit for the role of Commander in Chief.