On Sunday, ABC’s “This Week” played a Saturday-taped interview with former Secretary of Defense General James Mattis.
During the interview, host Chuck Todd asked Mattis about the ongoing situation with Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Mattis asserted that “if we don’t keep the pressure on,” a reemergence of ISIS is “a given.”
MATTIS: Well, what we see is the continued reliance that we have on allies. The fight against ISIS was fought largely by the Syrian Democratic Forces. We have lost, during several years of fighting in Syria, for example, less than a dozen troops, each one a tragedy, but the Syrian Democratic Forces, primarily the Kurds, have lost well over 11,000 killed, over 23,000 wounded. So, you see how we are fighting this enemy, doing it in a way by, with, and through allies that spreads the load, so it’s not just the American people, the American taxpayer, the American troops carrying the full load.
TODD: Do you feel as if, are we still doing this fight now? Or have we just pulled back, and it’s now up to the Kurds on their own?
MATTIS: Well, it’s in a situation of disarray right now. Obviously, the Kurds are adapting to the Turkish attacks. And we’ll have to see if they’re able to maintain the fight against ISIS. It’s going to have an impact. The question is, how much?
TODD: How would you turn this around now, if you could?
MATTIS: That’s a very good question, Chuck. That’s a very good question. You turn issues like this around based on trust. And re-instilling trust is going to be very difficult for the Americans, at this point.
TODD: There’s a movie called “Charlie Wilson’s War,” that the theme of it has to do with the Americans walking away from the mujahideen in Afghanistan. And of course, we all know what happens 20 years later. How concerned should we be about abandoning an ally, like the Kurds, that, maybe 20 years down the road, this comes to bite us?
MATTIS: Right. I think Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo, the intelligence services, the foreign countries that are working with us, have it about right, that ISIS is not defeated. We have got to keep the pressure on ISIS so they don’t recover. We may want a war over. We may even declare it over. You can pull your troops out, as President Obama learned the hard way, out of Iraq. But the “enemy gets a vote,” we say in the military, and in this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.
The Islamic State (ISIS) rose to prominence on the international stage when in June of 2014, it attacked the cities of Mosul and Tikrit in Iraq, reports the Wilson Center. Lead by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the radical Islamic organization was dedicated to creating a modern-day caliphate.
Over the next several years, ISIS gained and lost various swaths of territory, all the while releasing gruesome propaganda videos featuring militants brutally executing captives, from journalist James Foley to aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and Jordanian military pilot Moaz al Kasasbeh, among many others.
ISIS is also responsible for numerous terror attacks throughout the world, including the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 attacks in Paris, the 2016 Brussels bombings, and many more.
Although the “defeat” of the Islamic State is an ongoing process considering the disparate nature of the organization, their standing has been significantly diminished and their physical territory almost entirely recaptured.