Analysts suggest that the risk of sending tens of thousands of troops is there could be a backlash in public support. It also would become a costlier fight and there’s no evidence, they say, that the operation requires that level of troop commitment.
According to Brands, the success in the current war against Islamic State can be measured by the significant reduction in territory occupied by the terror group. Moreover, he said the manpower of ISIS has been reduced sharply.
Yet ISIS is getting more inventive in its use of weapons in the past year. Militants for ISIS have been using weaponized drones that drop grenades or other explosives. There’s also been video that is unconfirmed showing the use of suicide bombs strapped to dogs.
Besides the push to recapture the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, there’s also ongoing operations to retake Mosul. Iraqi troops have led the effort to retake Mosul, which was Iraq’s second-largest city when the Islamic State won control of it in 2014.
Trump is expected to touch on his fight against terror groups such as ISIS in his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. Yet don’t look for too much detail on the plan.
“It’s not really Trump’s style to give deeply detailed policy proposals when he’s speaking publicly,” said Brands.
As for Raqqa, the U.S. forces already on the ground in the region have been working with the Free Syrian Army and Kurdish YPG militias in operations to take control of the city.
Washington’s cooperation with the Kurdish fighters has angered Turkey’s government, which views the YPG (or People’s Protection Units) as an affiliate of a terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers Party. Mattis met with his Turkish counterpart recently where the Ankara government reiterated its case against the Kurdish group.
Brands said it’s possible the Trump administration’s ISIS plan may include a strategy that relies “less on the Syrian Kurdish forces.” If that happens, though, “almost by a process of elimination they are going to have to rely more on U.S. forces because there are no other capable indigenous forces…capable of taking Raqqa in the next 6 to 9 months.”
Finally, experts say there’s also a possibility that the new plan to defeat ISIS could include working more closely with the Russians to fight terror globally.
“My guess is we’ll try to make some accommodation with the Russians,” said Cancian. “But I am not sure that there’s really much to be had frankly. Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration tried to reach out to the Russians — and even Hillary Clinton had this ‘reset’ button and it failed.”
Added Cancian, “Each administration comes in believing that a sincere outreach to [Russian leaderVladimir] Putin will cut through the hostility. What they find out is that it’s not just Putin; it’s a thousand years of Russian history that they’re fighting against.”