Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Friday called the Islamic State "a brand with a diminishing appeal," and outlined the coalition's plans for 2018 in fighting the terrorist organization, according to an article published by the Department of Defense.
"We sit here today at the end of 2017, the caliphate is on the run, we're breaking them," Mattis told Pentagon reporters. "We are in the process of crushing the life out of the caliphate there while trying to keep the innocent people safe — which is very hard with this group."
"It is less inspirational when they have lost their physical caliphate; it is less inspirational as the stories of what it was like living under their rule come out. I think it is a brand with a diminishing appeal, but the appeal is still there for those who go in for that philosophy," he added.
ISIS has been nearly obliterated in the past year as a regional force in the Mideast, and Mattis, who spent over a decade embroiled in the Iraq War, oversaw the campaign to decimate the terrorist organization. There were approximately 17,500 fighters when President Donald Trump took office in January, a number that has now been pared down to roughly 1,000 fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria.
The destruction of the Islamic State of Iraq as well as Syria's physical caliphate will change the way the coalition will go after the terror group, Mattis explained.
In Iraq, Mattis said coalition forces will continue to work with the Iraqi government to train troops and police and develop intelligence to identify remaining ISIS fighters planning new attacks. But, he said eventually the plan was for local forces to spearhead the battle against ISIS.
"We need to drive this down to the point where it can be handled by local authorities — police," he said. "But, right now, it is still very much a military intelligence type of operation as the police try to set up local operations. Eventually, it will be rule of law and local security forces."
Mattis said forces that had escaped Raqqa into the Middle Euphrates River Valley had "proven they can stand against the Iraqi security forces." Those, he explained, would be "hunted down."
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