On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the ongoing Iraqi-led offensive against the Islamic State’s stronghold in Mosul was failing:
Monday morning, in an interview with Pat Robertson on “The 700 Club,” Trump doubled down on his prediction that the U.S. and allied coalition in Mosul will fail. He repeated his claim that tens of thousands of Iraqi, Kurdish and allied forces should have done a “sneak attack,” on Mosul, which is obviously impossible given the size of the mission and the nature of the battlefield there.
“You see what’s going on. You see how badly that fight is going,” Trump said. “If you want to go into Mosul, you don’t tell people for four months. Now they are having a hard time and they are really dug in, and the people that we wanted, the leaders of ISIS, are gone.”
Trump’s Sunday tweet and Monday comments follow a string of incorrect statements by the GOP candidate about what’s happening on the ground in Mosul, several of which were made at last week’s presidential debate.
On the campaign trail, Trump has said repeatedly that the Obama administration began the assault on Mosul “because Obama wanted to show what a tough guy he is before the election,” and because the administration wanted to help Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. That’s clearly erroneous because the mission is Iraqi-led and the Iraqi government controlled the timing.
But Trump’s latest claims, that the mission in Mosul “is a total disaster,” is not just wrong; he is actually rooting for the failure of a battle where hundreds of U.S. troops are in harm’s way and where a U.S. soldier gave his life only days ago.
Trump’s statements on how he would combat the Islamic State have been all over the map. At various times he has said his plans are “secret,” endorsed the torture of suspected terrorists, pledged to kill their families and promised to “take the oil,” which makes no sense at all. The one consistent Trump claim is that he would “knock the hell out of ISIS.” Now he is criticizing the anti-Islamic State coalition for doing just that.
The battle in Mosul is messy, progress is slow, and the fighting will continue for weeks at least, but is it not a “total disaster” and no American leader should push that line. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter visited the nearby city of Irbil over the weekend and spoke in support of the U.S. soldiers participating in the mission.
“Let me begin by saying what magnificent work our troops are doing here. I had a chance to talk with them about their work, tell them of our support for their work here. I can’t describe all of that, but it was all done with the excellence you would expect of our forces and this is a mission that is necessary to protect our people,” Carter said. “So there are people out here taking risks every day, but they’re doing that because it’s necessary to defend our country.”
That’s how a leader speaks about an ongoing operation. Predicting failure of U.S. forces in battle is not only defeatist and counterproductive, it’s akin to trumpeting the propaganda line of the Islamic State itself. In short, it’s the opposite of what someone who wants to be commander in chief should do.
Update: Hillary Clinton called out Trump’s Mosul tweet at a Monday rally in New Hampshire:
“This is a guy who says he knows more about ISIS than the generals. I don’t think so,” she said. “He’s basically declaring defeat before the battle has even started. He’s proving to the world what it means to have an unqualified commander in chief. It’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous.”