He said that the coalition against ISIS includes 68 members - "65 nations plus more joining as we speak, plus Interpol, the European Union and [the] Arab League - united in opposition, sharing intelligence, providing troops and funds for combat and, of no less importance, for the post-combat recovery". The tactical shift moves to a campaign aimed at surrounding and then seizing ISIS' urban strongholds in order to prevent the escape of fighters.
Dunford said the coalition, working alongside Turkish and partnered forces, has cleared "ISIS elements" from the Turkish-Syrian border, stemming the flow of foreign fighters, weapons and money to ISIS's front lines.
East Mosul has fallen after tough fighting by the Iraqi Security Forces with United States and coalition support, he said, adding that since January it has been a bit normal with businesses reopening, cleanup underway and kids back in school. The U.S. opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in the multi-factional Syrian civil war, meaning there is no cooperation in military operations despite both sides regarding the Islamic State as a common enemy. More than 4 million people have been liberated and ISIS has been prevented from recapturing any territory it has lost.
The defense secretary, a retired Marine general, appeared alongside Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford - who also Friday was reappointed to another two-year term - and Brett McGurk, the State Department's special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS to present an updated plan for Operation Inherent Resolve, the military's name for the fight against ISIS. Because the foreign fighters are the strategic threat should they return home to Tunis, to Kuala Lumpur, to Paris, to Detroit, wherever.
McGurk, meanwhile, said the ability to quickly make a decision without seeking approval in Washington has "made a difference".
"We're also taking the fight to ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, attacking their affiliates and any groups that claim allegiance", Dunford said.
McGurk added that ISIS's propaganda output is also down significantly.
Mattis would also not address how long he expects USA troops to remain a presence in Syria, adding, "that's not our intent".
Asked whether the proposal to Russian Federation would address the problem of a Syrian army presence in Deir el-Zour, Dunford said, "It will". I won't share the details.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the US-led coalition's military operation against the Daesh in Libya was greatly effective and led to the organization's loss of its controlled areas. They will be drawn from the Syrian city of Deir el-Zour, which has come under increasing US aerial bombardment, to the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim.
But, he said, "The lads know they're not part of a life insurance corporation; they're trained for this, and they go out and they do their job to the best they can".
"This enemy remains adaptive, and the threat will not end with the battles of Mosul and Raqqa, but the end of the phony caliphate is coming into sight".
"ISIS will go down fighting, of course, and do enormous amounts of harm in its death throes", Hal Brands and Peter Feaver, two US defense analysts, wrote in a recent assessment of how the extremist group will be defeated.