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In an appearance on the PBS NewsHour, U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk cited examples of speedier decision-making in Syria.
President Donald Trump’s decision to delegate tactical decision-making authority to commanders in the field is helping the battle against Islamic State militants in Syria, said Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy for the coalition against the Islamic State group.
“The rapid turn in decision-making is something that is new and is actually causing us to act with great efficiency and seizing some key opportunities,” McGurk told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Monday. It’s a key difference that has enabled forces to catch the Islamic State group by surprise, he said.
The decision is a significant departure from the White House’s relationship with the military under the Obama administration; the former president was “heavily involved in strategic and tactical decisions,” Roll Call pointed out when Trump announced the shift in April, to mixed reaction.
But McGurk said Monday that he thinks it’s making a difference; it’s enabled U.S.-backed forces to move more quickly on the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, in Northern Syria.
The Islamic State group was an expanding movement in 2014 — capturing vast territory in Syria and Iraq, culminating with its lightning seizure of Mosul in June of that year. Now, it is “radically shrinking,” with U.S. forces supporting Iraqi and Syrian Democratic Forces doing the actual fighting, he said. McGurk estimates the group has lost about one-third of territory it held in just the last six months.
The Syrian Democratic Forces are engaged in a grueling house-to-house battle for Raqqa that began in early June. Nearly half of the city has been retaken so far, McGurk said, progress that would not have been possible without President Trump’s decision.
Larisa Epatko produced multimedia web features and broadcast reports with a focus on foreign affairs for the PBS NewsHour. She has reported in places such as Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Haiti, Sudan, Western Sahara, Guantanamo Bay, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Turkey, Germany and Ireland.
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