US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the US had ‘accelerated’ its tactics against the Islamic State, moving from a policy of ‘attrition’ to one of ‘annihilation’.
The retired Marine Corps general on Sunday also said “civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation”, adding: “We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can,” The Guardian reported.
His remarks came a day after he cited the suicide bombing in Manchester, which has been claimed by Isis, in a speech to graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“Manchester’s tragic loss underscores the purpose of your years of study and training at this elite school,” Mattis said on Saturday. “We must never permit murderers to define our time or warp our sense of normal. This is not normal.”
The bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena killed 22 people, the youngest an eight-year-old girl, and injured dozens more. Fourteen people have been arrested, with two subsequently released. The bomber, Salman Abedi, was Libyan but may have traveled to Syria.
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Mattis said: “Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against IS. It is a threat to all civilized nations. And the bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot.
“We have already shifted from attrition tactics, where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them. Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We’re not going to allow them to do so. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”
Mattis also said efforts against Isis would be “a long fight” and “a fight about ideas”.
“We’re going to shatter their sense of invincibility there in the physical caliphate,” he said. “That’s only one phase of this. Then we have the virtual caliphate, that they use the internet.”