Primarily working with Iraqi and Syrian partners, the U.S. military and these local forces cut the main east-west lines of communication between Iraq and Syria. We got more aid to our Lebanese and Jordanian partners to help them defend their borders, and we re-started our initially ill-fated plan to train Syrians to fight the Islamic State, giving them specialized training and equipment. Oh, and we delivered an overwhelming amount of airpower in support of local forces fighting the Islamic State at a time when Iraqi forces trained by U.S. soldiers started re-entering the fight in replacement of previously ineffective units. These newly retrained units performed qualitatively better than the units they replaced, and the results on the ground bore that out.
One by one, cities and towns under the control of the Islamic State started falling. Because we were fighting with local partners, it was messier than if we had done it ourselves. The destruction to Ramadi and Fallujah, in particular, was breathtaking. And it took longer than it would have taken if U.S. forces had been in the lead. But it was also a lot less expensive, and only five U.S. servicemen were killed in the process —compared with almost 5,000 over the course of the earlier war in Iraq.
And the success of the campaign was going to be more sustainable than that of our earlier efforts, we told ourselves, because Iraqis and Syrians were owning the fight—at tremendous human cost, I must add—and thus owning the victory.
This was the war President Trump inherited from President Obama.