TEHRAN, October 21 - President Donald Trump is wrong to claim he has dramatically changed the military approach to fighting ISIS, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday.
"The plan ... was laid out two years ago, and has been executed pretty much in the manner and the schedule that was foreseen then," Carter told Jake Tapper on "The Lead."
US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa announced this week that "major military operations" in the city have ended and that the terrorist group has lost control of its self-declared capital.
Carter, who served as defense secretary under former President Barack Obama at the end of his second term, gave credit for the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa "first and foremost" to the military. He also said that he and Joseph Dunford, a former Marine Corps commandant who is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, actively tried to accelerate the plan to defeat ISIS under Obama, and they always got approval from the president.
Carter added: "I can well imagine that if my successor, Jim Mattis, had ways of moving things along, then he would have recommended them as well."
The comments come after Trump took credit for the fact that ISIS is in retreat in an interview Tuesday in which the President claimed that the terrorist group wasn't on the run before because "you didn't have Trump as your President."
"I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military. I totally changed the attitudes of the military, and they have done a fantastic job," Trump said told syndicated radio talk show host Chris Plante. "ISIS is now giving up. They are giving up, they are raising their hands, they are walking off. Nobody has ever seen that before."
The defeat of ISIS in Raqqa marks a significant moment for the war on ISIS.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement Friday congratulating the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces for their victory in Raqqa.
"We congratulate the Syrian people and the Syrian Democratic Forces, including the Syrian Arab Coalition, on the liberation of Raqqa," Tillerson said, adding that the US is proud to lead the coalition that supported the effort, "which has seen ISIS's so-called caliphate crumble across Iraq and Syria."
"Our work is far from over, but the liberation of Raqqa is a critical milestone in the global fight against ISIS and underscores the success of the ongoing international and Syrian effort to defeat these terrorists," he said.