Trump Urges Stronger Push Against ISIS That Could Include Big U.S. Presence In Syria

The president ordered the joint chiefs of staff to come up with a plan fast.

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon on Saturday to boost U.S. military activity against the so-called Islamic State. 

The president signed a presidential memorandum requiring the joint chiefs of staff to give him a plan within the next 30 days for defeating the militant group. 

“It is going to be very successful,” Trump said, according to Reuters.

According to the memorandum, the plan to tackle the militant group will include new public diplomacy, information operations and cyber strategies, as well as identify possible new coalition partners and mechanisms to cut off or seize ISIS’s financial support. 

The White House calls “defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups” its top priority. On the campaign trail, Trump slammed his predecessor’s approach to the fight against ISIS, saying the Obama administration was hamstrung by political correctness and public discussion about its plans. He claimed he knew more than U.S. generals and had a secret plan to fight the group.

But the new president’s push for more aggressive rhetoric and actions will only strengthen ISIS and other militants, experts warn, while alienating Muslim-majority U.S. allies who play a key role in counter-terror cooperation. And Trump’s talk of creating “safe zones” for refugees and his apparent openness to a stronger U.S. ground presence in Syria, directly conflict with his talk of reducing American efforts to engage in nation-building abroad.

In addition, he might be surprised by what his generals come back with ― just as he was when retired Gen. James Mattis, now the secretary of defense, told him that torture is ineffective. While President Barack Obama’s ISIS strategy presented major risks in the long run by ignoring political solutions to the conflicts that gave birth to the group, Obama did secure short-term gains, significantly slashing ISIS’s power and reducing its territory in Iraq and Syria. 

U.S. allies and troops hope Mattis will be a moderating influence on Trump, keeping him from making radical moves. The president continues to lay out arguments that diverge from Mattis’ views, however, speaking of cooperation with a Russian government that has invaded its European neighbor and helped ISIS thrive by worsening the Syria situation.

In a phone call on Saturday, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to cooperate on Syria. “Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today’s call the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern,” said a readout of the call issued by the White House.

But it remained unclear Saturday how Trump might involve Russia, and its partners Iran and Syria, in his anti-ISIS plan. Trump has previously said their coalition, which largely avoids combating ISIS and has been linked to the deaths of U.S. troops, is the only partner he can see working with in Syria. 

Also on Saturday, Trump barred his administration officials from ever lobbying the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments once they leave office and set a five-year ban on other lobbying. In a third order, he outlined a reorganization plan for the National Security Council.