President Trump said Friday that the United States will hit the Islamic State “10 times harder” after the group claimed that the suspect in a truck attack Tuesday in New York City that killed eight people was a “soldier” of theirs. But it appears that is hyperbole, in light of what is left in the military campaign and how the Pentagon prosecutes its war.
Trump, speaking at the White House before departing on a lengthy trip to Asia, implied that any Islamic State attack will be met with a larger response than ever before.
“What we are doing is every time we’re attacked from this point forward . . . we are hitting them 10 times harder,” Trump said. “So when we have an animal do an attack like he did the other day on the West Side of Manhattan, we are hitting them 10 times harder. They claimed him as a soldier? Good luck. Every time they hit us, we know it’s ISIS, we hit them like you folks won’t believe.”
Trump’s comments followed tweets Friday morning in which he said that the military already had hit the Islamic State “much harder” over the past two days in response to the attack.
Trump’s tweets state that although the Islamic State just claimed the attack, the military already had boosted its response. But statistics released by the Pentagon show that’s not the case: There were 13 strikes Nov. 2, 11 strikes Nov. 1 and 13 strikes Oct. 31, the day of the attack. There were between eight and 15 strikes each day from Oct. 25 through Oct. 30.
Trump’s comments at the White House are harder to predict, but it would require the military to be launching more than 100 strikes per day at a time when the Islamic State’s two de facto capitals, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, already have fallen. The U.S. military is still focusing on the Islamic State in the Euphrates River valley in Syria, but it’s an area in which involvement by forces aligned with the Syrian regime complicates fighting.
Army Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard, commander of the U.S.-led Special Operations joint task force fighting the Islamic State, said in a news briefing Tuesday that there are probably somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000 Islamic State fighters left throughout the Euphrates River valley, from Deir al-Zour in Syria to Al Qaim in Iraq.