Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS Brett McGurk (L). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
By Todd Beamon | Saturday, 05 Aug 2017 07:25 PM
Aggressive steps taken by the Trump administration have brought “dramatically accelerated” gains against the Islamic State in the last six months, a top State Department official said.
Brett McGurk, senior envoy to the U.S.-backed coalition, told reporters Friday that actions taken by President Donald Trump — including pushing decision-making down to field commanders — have resulted in about 8,000 square miles being reclaimed in Iraq and Syria.
McGurk’s comments were reported by The Washington Post.
So far, ISIS has lost 27,000 square miles — 78 percent of its holdings in Iraq and 58 percent in Syria — since the group’s peak control in early 2015, he said.
In addition, ISIS terrorists have been driven out of 45 percent of Raqqa, since U.S.-backed forces began their offensive two months ago.
Airstrikes by U.S. and coalition forces have been most successful in aiding Syrian Democratic Forces, consisting of Kurdish and Arab fighters, the Post reports.
McGurk, who held the same position in the Obama White House, cited “key changes” under President Trump that have brought about the ISIS changes.
They also included a “campaign of annihilation” focusing on neighboring cities held by ISIS before broader attacks, to keep terrorists from escaping.
By allowing field officers to make decisions, McGurk said Trump gave them the authority to respond faster to changing situations, the Post reports.
He said the 2,000 militants left in Raqqa “most likely will die in Raqqa.”
The United Nations has estimated that 25,000 civilians also remain there, according to the Post.
In addition, McGurk said that renewed efforts by the Trump administration to “increase burden sharing from the coalition” among what he said were 73 countries has also been a factor.
Most of the nations do not contribute to combat efforts, but they are expected to help to stabilize areas that have been cleared, he said.
Such areas include Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraq security forces declared victory over ISIS last month.
“People say, ‘We want you to run the hospital, the schools,'” McGurk told reporters. “We say, ‘No, we’re not very good at that.’
“It’s not our responsibility.”