Legislative victories on tax reform and immigration, and reports that ISIS is on the run, has the White House gaining fresh momentum.
Donald Trump wasn’t supposed to survive his first year in office — so it’s hardly surprising that the mainstream media is having a difficult time admitting that the president is beginning to enjoy some real governing “success.”
On the heels of his best jobs report since taking office, Trump scored a major victory last week with passage of an historic tax reform bill. Other legislative breakthroughs, including immigration reform, are likely to emerge in January. And sometime in the spring, Trump, in all likelihood, will shepherd a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill through Congress.
But it’s not just Trump’s success on the domestic front that has confounded his opposition. The president’s foreign policy is also showing impressive – if largely unheralded — results.
None is more significant, perhaps, than the administration’s military campaign against ISIS and Islamic terrorism in Syria and Iraq. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to take the war to ISIS in a manner that Barack Obama had not. And since taking office, he’s done just that, stepping up the air war, devastating the group’s self-declared Caliphate, and decimating the insurgents’ fighting capacity.
The evidence that ISIS is in retreat is overwhelming. Last July the Washington Post reported that the Islamic State had lost about 60 percent of the territory it controlled at the peak of its expansion, which would have left a sizable area, mostly in Syria but also Iraq, still to be recaptured.
But more recent reports reveal that American-based forces in Iraq and Syria have forced ISIS into a strategic retreat. In early November, for example, ISIS militants withdrew from their last stronghold in Syria, a strategic town near the border with Iraq, following a government offensive that “effectively left the extremist group’s fighters dispersed in villages and small towns in the desert,” according to overseas press reports.
Last week, the Pentagon reported that ISIS has lost 98% of the territory that once comprised its Caliphate, leaving the group to return to insurgent operations and acts of terror in Western capitals. The latest American intelligence assessment says fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters now remain in Iraq and Syria, down from a peak of nearly 45,000 just two years ago. In recent press briefings, U.S. officials credit nearly 30,000 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and regional partners on the ground for killing more than 70,000 jihadists.
Why didn’t the Obama administration do more to defeat ISIS? Critics say it was due to the president’s decision to “micro-manage” the air war, much as the Democratic president Lyndon Johnson once did in Vietnam. Obama imposed onerous “rules of engagement” on coalition forces, ostensibly to more carefully discriminate between military and civilian targets.
“The limitations that were [imposed] actually resulted in greater civilian casualties,” says retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who formerly headed up U.S. Air Force intelligence. Deptula also notes that ISIS-controlled oil supplies weren’t targeted for 15 months beginning in 2014, giving the terror group $800 million in much needed revenue to plot attacks and capture millions of innocents to build up the Caliphate.
Military experts caution that the war against ISIS is far from over — but Trump’s escalation has clearly worked. More than half of the latest losses suffered by ISIS have occurred during the past year alone. You might think that would be front-page news in the New York Times or the lead story on CNN or MSNBC.