Did Trump Really Beat ISIS?

    Robin Simcox

    Security, Middle East

    A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces calls his comrades during the fighting with Islamic State fighters in Raqqa, Syria

    President Trump deserves credit for hastening the downfall of their Caliphate. However, the war is not over.

    “We’re gonna beat ISIS very, very quickly, folks. It’s gonna be fast. I have a great plan. It’s going to be great. They ask, ‘What is it?’ Well, I’d rather not say.”

    Donald Trump made this pledge to supporters in Connecticut in April 2016. At the time, it seemed unlikely he would ever have to make good on the promise. After all, Hillary Clinton led comfortably in the polls. However, Trump’s surprise victory gave him the chance to back up his claim. Many were openly skeptical he could do it.

    But one year into the Trump administration, the facts on the ground—in Syria and Iraq—have changed dramatically. ISIS lost control of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, in July 2017. Three months later, ISIS’ capital—the Syrian city of Raqqa—fell. Many fighters retreated to Deir ez-Zor in the country’s east. In November 2017, that too fell. The ‘Caliphate’ that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced with such fanfare in the summer of 2014 was in tatters.

    “We have made, alongside our coalition partners, more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years,” Trump proclaimed last fall.

    So was Donald Trump right all along? Did he have a secret plan? And is ISIS now defeated?

    Tactical changes

    The United States was already at war with ISIS prior to Trump’s election, working with local partners to take back the territory the terrorist army had gained in Iraq and Syria and carrying out airstrikes in support of that mission. Progress was undeniably slow and, days after being inaugurated, President Trump signed an Executive Order requesting a Pentagon-led review be provided to him within thirty days on how ISIS could be defeated.

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