James Mattis on War & Peace
During his more than four decades in uniform, Secretary Mattis commanded Marines at all levels, from an infantry rifle platoon to a Marine Expeditionary Force. He led an infantry battalion in Iraq in 1991, an expeditionary brigade in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attack in 2001, a Marine Division in the initial attack and subsequent stability operations in Iraq in 2003, and led all U.S. Marine Forces in the Middle East as Commander of the U.S. Marine Forces Central Command.
During his non-combat assignments, Secretary Mattis served as Senior Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense; as Director, Marine Corps Manpower Plans & Policy; as Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command; and as Executive Secretary to the Secretary of Defense.
McGurk, in his resignation letter, said that the militants were still on the run but not yet defeated, and that the early withdrawal of American troops from Syria would re-create the conditions that gave rise to ISIS. Mattis did not mention Syria specifically in his resignation letter, but he did speak of a difference of opinion between himself and Trump.
"You have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects," Mattis wrote. "I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed," he added.
By then, 95% of the ISIS pseudo-caliphate in Syria and Iraq--once the size of Indiana--had been liberated. No longer. ISIS is now making a comeback. Two stunning reports this month--by the United Nations and Trump's own Defense Department--both contradict earlier US claims that most ISIS fighters had been eliminated. The Pentagon report [says] ISIS has successfully morphed from a proto-state into a "covert global network, with a weakened yet enduring core" in Iraq and Syria.
So the Trump Administration has reversed course; it is now keeping U.S. troops in Syria indefinitely.
The US has three missions to complete before it can withdraw. "One, we have to destroy ISIS. The President's been very clear that ISIS is to be taken out," Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on August 28th. "We also have to have trained local troops who can take over."
The Trump Administration also does not want to withdraw U.S. troops, Mattis said, until a peace process is under way to end the war in Syria and map the country's political future. "We need the Geneva process--the UN-recognized process--to start making traction towards solving this war," Mattis said. "Now, if the locals are able to keep the security, obviously during this time we might be reducing our troops commensurate with their ability to deny ISIS a return, but it really comes down to finding a way to solve this problem of Assad's making."
Secretary of Defense James Mattis outlined that President Trump "delegated authority to the right level to aggressively and in a timely manner move against enemy vulnerabilities." This meant that when those on the ground requested airstrikes, fewer layers of sign-off were required; the approval process was decentralized and, subsequently, faster.
Mattis has also said that another change was a "shift from shoving ISIS out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS." The purpose behind this, Mattis outlined, was to dry up the flow of foreign fighters leaving the region.
"This is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability," Mattis said, alluding to the North's recent progress in building nuclear bombs and developing an intercontinental ballistic missile to deliver such weapons to U.S. soil. The Trump administration has been conducting a broad policy review of North Korea that includes military options, but Mattis stressed other approaches. "We are working diplomatically, including with those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control," he said. "But right now it appears to be going in a very reckless manner. That's got to be stopped."
Mattis said he supported the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump has repeatedly criticized.
Syria is a failed state and has become one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of the 21st century. This conflict has led to the rise of extremism, sectarianism, instability in the region and Europe , and the worst refugee crisis the world has faced in recent memory.
Mattis was one of the Iraq campaign's most important ground commanders. He led the 1st Marine Division during the invasion and later oversaw the bloody retaking of Fallujah from insurgents in 2004.
As for the Pentagon's view on the Iraq invasion at the time, Mattis said this: "I think people were pretty much aware that the U.S. military didn't think it was a very wise idea. But we give a cheery 'Aye aye, sir.' Because when you elect someone commander in chief--we give our advice. We generally give it in private." Mattis's comments came during a question-and-answer session after a keynote delivered last year at ASIS International, a conference for global security professionals.
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