US' Mattis says coalition will encircle IS fighters, before starting military campaign

The endgame battle: How US is planning the final war against Islamic State. It wants Russia's support

"We're there to drive ISIS to its knees", Defense Secretary James Mattis said, using a common abbreviation for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Second, he said, Trump has also approved a tactical shift from pushing ISIS fighters out from a stronghold to enabling local partners to completely encircle them and move in, referred to it as an "annihilation" campaign. "Over four million people have been liberated".

Soon after taking office in January, Trump ordered a review of the effort against ISIS.

"The foreign fighters are the strategic threat should they return home to Tunis, to Kuala Lumpur, to Paris, to Detroit, wherever". But Mattis was quick to deny any changes to rules of engagement or an increased tolerance for civilian casualties. "But, no, it has not been made yet", Mattis said in response to a question.

When aksed about what "annihilation" for ISIS would look like on the ground, Mattis underscored the removal of the transnational dimension for the terror group, reducing it to a threat local security forces could deal with. Those nations and affiliated organizations are sharing intelligence, providing troops and funds for combat and for the post-combat recovery. The test triggered a new USA -backed push for a fresh round of United Nations sanctions against the North.

"And, I think, perhaps most importantly, we've undermined the credibility of their narrative that there is a physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria", Dunford said.

While Dunford said military coordination was prohibited by USA law, he said expanded communications would be helpful as the areas where US troops and aircraft operate become "increasingly complex and constrained".

"That's resulted in ISIS having the lowest revenue at any point since 2014", he said, adding that the coalition has also removed the dreaded outfit's key leaders from the battlefield.

"But it is the Iraqis paying most of the cost".

However, the Iraqi forces have gotten much better and far more competent, the chairman said. He'll meet there again with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited the White House Tuesday.

McGurk pointed to a March operation near Tabqa, Syria, where the United States commander made a decision to have USA helicopters ferry hundreds of Syrian Democratic Forces fighters behind enemy lines to conduct a surprise attack on ISIS.

Dunford said the flow of foreign fighters into ISIS in the region has slowed from 1,500 per month to less than 100.

And Syrian Democratic Forces are isolating Raqqa - the center of ISIS.

"The Russians are as enthusiastic as we are to deconflict operations" and focus on fighting IS, Dunford said.

Asked about reports that the Turkish government has requested his dismissal, McGurk brushed them off as "tactical differences", praising Turkey as a strategic ally and adding that "we can not defeat ISIS without Turkey".

The chairman told reporters he is working to expand the already huge coalition against ISIS. Government services and normalcy must be restored, he said, "otherwise you simply breed the next problem". "And without telegraphing anything that is to come, the pressure's only started", McGurk said.

"We don't have a government to work with and we will never work with the Assad regime", he said.

McGurk added that ISIS's propaganda output is also down significantly.

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