About That Plan to Annihilate ISIS…

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

I’m still sick. Everyone needs to feel sorry for me. What’s worse, I had to drag myself to the doctor’s office yesterday for some lab tests anyway, and my favorite phlebotomist1 cheerfully told me that what I had was “going around.” It always is, isn’t it? “And it lasts four weeks,” she told me. “After a week you might think you’re finally over it, but then it comes back like a freight train.”

Lovely. So what can I blog about while I’m wooly headed? How about Trump? Yesterday I was wondering what’s up with his secret plan to annihilate ISIS. His generals were supposed to report back to him in February, and now it’s June and nothing much seems to have happened. We armed the Kurds to help us in the battle for Raqqa, and…that’s about it. So this morning I decided to do a quick Google to see if I’d missed anything. This is from Brian McKeon, a former Obama official, writing in Foreign Policy:

On May 19, a day when Washington was consumed with the latest developments in the scandals enveloping the White House, the Pentagon announced that the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, respectively — would be renominated for another term. The commanders leading the military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa, and Syria — all places with significant Islamic State presences — also remain in place.

That same day, Dunford and Secretary of Defense James Mattis updated the Pentagon press corps on the counter-Islamic State campaign, which Trump has ordered them to accelerate….They highlighted only two significant changes: delegation of more authority to field commanders, and a tactical shift from shoving the Islamic State out of safe locations to surrounding it in its strongholds.

So all the same generals that Trump ridiculed during the campaign are still running things. There have been a couple of minor tactical shifts, but that’s all. There will be no expanded troop presence. And far from “bombing the hell” out of ISIS, airstrikes have increased at about the same rate as usual:

On the other hand, civilian casualties have skyrocketed since Trump was inaugurated:

The increase in airstrikes and civilian casualties isn’t surprising on its own. The Battle for Mosul began last October, and a higher battlefield tempo was inevitable. But even in January and February, when the Pentagon was still operating under the Obama doctrine, they managed to keep civilian casualties relatively low even though the number of airstrikes was high. Under Trump, airstrikes have stayed at the January levels, but civilian casualties have more than doubled. According to Defense Secretary James Mattis, this is just a “fact of life.”

Anyway, that’s what’s happening. As near as I can tell, we’re continuing to fight ISIS with pretty much the same plan we’ve had all along. The only substantial difference is that apparently we don’t care much about civilian casualties anymore.

Oh, and we dropped a gigantic bomb in Afghanistan. That sure seemed to get the media’s attention. They just love shiny, dramatic new things, even if they don’t actually mean anything.

1Seriously. One of the side effects of cancer is that you develop relationships with the folks who draw blood. I always go to the lab in the afternoon because that’s when Karen works. (To be totally honest, it’s when Pedro doesn’t work, and I’m actually avoiding him more than anything else.)


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend