Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented a classified plan to the White House Monday for the rapid defeat of ISIS that was reportedly an updated version of the Obama administration's strategy of relying on local forces to carry the brunt of the fight.
"It is a plan to rapidly defeat ISIS," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, but he stressed that "this is a preliminary plan" whose details will be closely held to allow for continued discussion and to avoid giving the enemy forewarning.
The plan called for the involvement of "all elements of national power" in what Davis called a "trans-regional approach" to defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
"Diplomacy is a key part of the plan" that was focused on ISIS but was also shaped to include other "trans-regional" terrorist groups, Davis said. "This is really a framework for broader discussion."
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The formulation of the plan fulfilled a campaign pledge by Trump, who had said that if elected he would order up a 30-day review on accelerated action to eliminate ISIS as a threat. On Jan, 27, Trump went to the Pentagon for the first time to sign an executive order directing Mattis to draw up the plan within 30 days.
At the White House, Mattis outlined the plan to the "Principals Committee" of the National Security Council, led by the new National Security Advisor, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Davis said. The Principals Committee included White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and other senior Trump advisers.
McMaster had been at the Pentagon last Friday to be briefed on Mattis' proposals which Davis described in general terms as a "broad plan. It is global. It is not just military. It is not just Iraq-Syria." 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."
The military under the Obama administration was strongly opposed to the introduction of major elements of U.S. conventional forces into the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and backed the train, advise and assist role with local forces.
U.S. commanders have suggested that the new plan would involve U.S. troops moving closer to the front lines while still avoiding ground combat. Trump has said he would favor the creation of "safe zones" for refugees in Syria, which would require large numbers of U.S. troops to police and protect them, but there was no immediate indication that the Mattis plan included safe zones.
Last week, Army Gen, Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast that the U.S. might provide artillery support to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces now closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.
At the Brookings Institute last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said that the U.S. was looking to the possibility of a long-term presence of U.S. troops in Iraq following the ouster of ISIS from its last remaining stronghold in the northwestern Iraqi city of Mosul.
"We have, as has NATO, 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.
When asked about the Mattis plan, Dunford said "It's fair to say we'll provide him (Trump) a full range of options."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com