In October 2006, Al-Masri announced the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). By April 2013 this organization would change its name to what most of us know it as today, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant; otherwise abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS. After ISIS had made massive territorial gains and had committed several human rights abuses, many nations decided that due to the threat of further spillover that intervention was needed.
By the end of June 2014, the Pentagon announced that the United States would be sending an additional 300 troops to Iraq, which brought the total number of US troops in Iraq to approximately 800.
April 13, 2017 marked a significant day in the United States military intervention against ISIS. This was the day the United States military decided to drop its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS compound located in Afghanistan. Many believed that it was unnecessary to use such a forceful and large bomb on this particular area. However, the US military defended its choice of action fully. US General John Nicholson Jr., who is commander for the US forces in Afghanistan, stated during a press conference "This was the right weapon against the right target…It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield."
During a conference, in April 2018, at the United States Institute of Peace Brett McGurk stated that "We are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission, and out missions isn't over…We have to work through some very difficult issues as we speak…We are going to complete that mission." Brett McGurk is the current State Department coordinator for the international coalition fighting ISIS.
As of now, the US has about 2,000 troops still deployed in Syria, mainly the northeast region, aiding and advising local militias. These local militia groups have pushed ISIS out of nearly one-third of Syria, which includes Raqqa. Though the fight to gain back the land ISIS took control over has been difficult, the US believes that the trickier part still lays ahead of them.
"The hard part, I think, is in front of us, and that is stabilizing these areas, consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes…There is a military role in this, certainly in the stabilization phase." This was said by General Joseph L. Votel, who is the current head of Central Command operations, during the same conference at the United States Institute of Peace this April.
On the matter of US military involvement when trying to combat ISIS, President Trump recently said "I want to get out…I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation…We were very successful against ISIS. We'll be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes it's time to come back home." It is not a new standpoint that President Trump is expressing when he states that he wants the troops to come back home. The concern comes from the disconnect that seems to be apparent between President Trump and his advisors. According to The New Yorker, there were reports that during the first week of April 2018 US troops were creating new frontline positions and bringing more equipment over to Syria in order help further their development.
Defense Secretary James Mattis, General Joseph Dunford, and General Joseph L. Votel have tried to convince the President that the US should continue its work in Syria for another year or two. President Trump, as of now, believes that too much time and money has been spent in Syria and the Middle East in general. "We will have, as of three months ago, spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East over the last seventeen years. We get nothing – nothing out of it, nothing," President Trump stated when asked about Syria during a recent press conference.
President Trump's advisors believe that a premature pullout from the region could cause ISIS to gain back the land that was taken back. Failure to fully stabilize the region before bringing US troops back home, especially in the US military controlled areas, could create further destabilization for the citizens of Syria and Iraq.
It is vital that President Trump and his advisors get on the same page about how they will continue with ISIS, Syria, and Iraq moving forward. Since the US military has been so heavily involved in the region for such a long period of time, the US must now consider themselves an active party in the region and therefore must consider the implications a quick pullout of troops would have. However, before it decided that US troops will continue to stay in the region or come back to the United States, what first must be decided upon is which strategy the US will be using going forwards. The US at this time must at least appear to have a united front on this matter.