US President Donald Trump on Saturday signed an executive order giving the US military 30 days to devise a new strategy for defeating the Islamic State group.
The order is seen as meaning more US forces and military hardware moving into Iraq and Syria.
Trump on Saturday also signed an order imposing a five-year lobbying ban on members of his administration, and a lifetime ban on officials lobbying for a foreign country.
“We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice,” he told Fox News in an interview broadcast Thursday, using one of the acronyms for the jihadist group. “This is evil. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen.”
His predecessor Barack Obama took a longer term view of the anti-IS fight, with a more cautious commitment of US forces, instead ramping up an air war against the violent extremists.
“President Trump might be looking for something with quicker results, that could put some more options on the table,” retired lieutenant general David Barno, who led coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, told National Public Radio on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump wants the Pentagon to come up with a new set of options for a tougher campaign against IS.
The United States currently has 5,000 troops in Iraq and 500 in Syria as “advisers” — but also US artillery and aircraft to help in the fight.
They have provided substantial support to the assault led by Iraqi forces on Islamic State’s hold on the key city of Mosul.
The slow, steady assault has driven IS fighters out of part of the city on the east bank of the Tigris River, and forces are now preparing an assault on IS-held Mosul neighborhoods on the river’s west bank.
According to reports, an escalation of the US role could involve more US armor and helicopters engaging in the assaults on IS positions together with Iraqi, Turkish and Kurdish forces.
Trump “could elect to put American boots on the ground in larger numbers,” Barno said. “That all entails new uses of military power… and that opens the prospect of a deeper involvement with more casualties.”
Also Saturday, Trump acted to fulfill a key portion of his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, banning administration officials from ever lobbying the US on behalf of a foreign government and imposing a separate five-year ban on other lobbying.
Administration officials described the bans as historic in scope. But it was not immediately clear how either one would be enforced.
Trump has said individuals who want to aid him in his quest to “Make America Great Again” should focus on the jobs they will be doing to help the American people, and not thinking about the future income they could rake in by peddling their influence after serving in government.
“Most of the people standing behind me will not be able to go to work,” Trump joked, referring to an array of White House officials lined up behind him as he sat at his desk in the Oval Office. The officials included Vice President Mike Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon and counselor Kellyanne Conway. “So you have one last chance to get out.”
Trump said he talked about the ban a lot during the campaign and “we’re now putting it into effect.”
Some have argued that the ban could make it difficult for Trump to fill thousands of jobs across the administration, saying some candidates may chafe at being asked to agree to the ban and turn down job offers as a result.
The phrase “‘drain the swamp'” became a staple of the final month of Trump’s presidential campaign, with crowds chanting it as loudly as they had been shouting “build the wall” and “lock her up,” references to the wall Trump wants built on the US-Mexico border and his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, respectively.