Mattis: Fight against ISIS has accelerated

Secretary of Defense says the fight against ISIS has shifted to "annihilation tactics."

Ben Ariel ,

James Mattis
James Mattis

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on Sunday that the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group has "accelerated" and shifted to "annihilation tactics."

"Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against ISIS. It is a threat to all civilized nations," Mattis told CBS News' "Face the Nation."

Mattis made the comments shortly after President Donald Trump returned from his first foreign trip, where he focused on combating ISIS and terrorism in general. On his first stop in Saudi Arabia, the President called on Muslim nations to unite against terrorists and "drive them out of this Earth."

Mattis, in Sunday's interview, said 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," he told CBS News.

"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."

The newer strategy gives ISIS no retreat, Mattis explained.

"You see that right now, for example, in western Mosul that is surrounded and the Iraqi-- security forces are moving against them," he said. "Tal Afar is now surrounded. We have got efforts underway right now to surround their self-declared caliphate capital of Raqa. That surrounding operation is going on. And once surrounded, then we'll go in and clean them out."

"Once ISIS is defeated,” he continued, “there's a larger effort underway to make certain that we don't just sprout a new enemy. We know ISIS is going to go down. We've had success on the battlefield. We've freed millions of people from being under their control, and not one inch of that ground that ISIS has lost has ISIS regained."

Mattis would not give a timeline for the fight against ISIS, only saying that it will be "long."