Pentagon sends White House plan to defeat Islamic State

US President Donald Trump announced on Monday that his budget plan for fiscal year 2018 would include a historically-high $54 billion bump on defense spending, while cutting a similar amount from the State Department and foreign aid - but his own Secretary of Defense James Mattis may not agree with that strategy.

One official with knowledge of the recommendations said the report would present a broad overview of options as a starting point for a more detailed internal discussion.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Mattis was ensuring that he had input from other Cabinet agencies.

In Syria, the United States must soon decide whether to arm Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters, despite objections from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, which brands the militia group as terrorists. But the YPG forms the main force to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State militants' self-proclaimed capital and base of operations. He emphasized that it would not rest mainly on military might.

"We have, as has North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, begun a dialogue about a long-term commitment to grow the capacity, maintain the capacity of Iraqi Security Forces, but no decisions have been made yet", Dunford said.

"It is a plan to rapidly defeat ISIS", Davis said, using the Pentagon's preferred acronym for the group, which has proven resilient despite losing ground in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

In 2016, the Department of Defense spent more than $516 billion, or about 14% of the budget on military programs, according to the USA government.

"The White House will begin reviewing the recommendations", the official said on condition of anonymity.

Trump has so far given Mattis broad leeway on shaping USA military policy, even though the retired Marine Corps general has pushed back against much of Trump's more blustery rhetoric, including his professed support of torture and claim that America should seize Iraq's oil.

A pillar of Mr Trump's presidential campaign was to quicken the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

But the initial plan will not result in immediate adjustments to the ongoing fights against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, Davis said. Davis said Mattis intended the plan to require choices by the president and his team "but it's not a "check-the-block, pick A or B or C kind of a plan".

"This is a broad plan", he said.

"This is not just a military plan. It is not just Iraq/Syria".

When asked about the Mattis plan, Dunford said "It's fair to say we'll provide him (Trump) a full range of options".

Dunford's comment suggests Pentagon leaders may have a more nuanced view of IS than is reflected in Trump's promise to "obliterate" the group, as he put it on Friday. Dunford said the USA should be careful that in solving the IS problem, it does not create others. Among sensitive questions are how to deal with Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally with much at stake in neighboring Syria, and Russian Federation, whose year-and-a-half military intervention has propped up Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. Davis said the report defines what it means to "defeat" the group, which he wouldn't reveal to reporters.

USA commanders have suggested that the new plan would involve US troops moving closer to the front lines while still avoiding ground combat. Mattis already has signaled publicly that he sees no value in having US combat forces take over the ground war.

"I would just tell you that by, with and through our allies is the way this coalition is going against [the Islamic State group]", Mattis said last week in Baghdad.

Asked if adding more US troops or arming the Syrian Kurds was under discussion, Mattis said he will "accommodate any request" from his field commanders.

The military under the Obama administration was strongly opposed to the introduction of major elements of US conventional forces into the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and backed the train, advise and assist role with local forces.

"I think there will be a shift from the Obama administration", said Alexander Mercouris, editor-in-chief of The Duran, to Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear program, "The problem is, that the details of what the Trump administration is going to do and what General Mattis is going to advise is, at the moment, far from clear".

  • Leroy Wright