Secretary of Defense James Mattis instructed the U.S. military to abandon Obama administration procedures and start focusing on killing Islamic State fighters instead, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told Breaking Defense.
“When Secretary Mattis looked at our anti-ISIS campaign, he concluded that in some instances we were essentially just pushing the enemy from one location to another,” Dunford explained. “He asked me and the military chain-of-command to make a conscious effort not to allow ISIS fighters to just flee from one location to another, but rather to deliberately seek to ‘annihilate’ the enemy,” he continued.
The Pentagon has yet to reveal a new strategy to defeat ISIS but Mattis has heavily emphasized his focus on “annihilation” in recent months.
“We have already shifted from attrition tactics where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them. Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We’re not going to allow them to do so. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate,” Mattis declared in a late May interview with CBSNews.
Dunford however lamented that ISIS is increasingly embedding themselves within civilian populations to guard against U.S. airstrikes.
“One tactic they have adopted is to mix in with the civilian population, and that makes targeting them very difficult. We can’t just indiscriminately bomb people who are leaving these cities. Even with this annihilation battle plan, we have to be very careful about civilian casualties,” He said.