The State Department on Tuesday rejected the suggestion that the defeat of the Islamic State in its chief stronghold reflects a "multi-administration" effort that included former President Barack Obama's team.
"The previous administration tried," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday. "But President Trump, and under this administration, we have doubled down on the efforts to take back all of the territory that had been taken by ISIS."
That was a pointed repudiation of any debt to the Obama administration, days after Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson celebrated the capture of Raqqa, the capital of ISIS in Syria. The taking of that city sparked a victory lap in U.S. circles, as well as a political debate over how much credit Trump should receive.
"I issued orders to give our commanders and troops on the ground the full authorities to achieve this mission," Trump said Saturday. "We have made, alongside our coalition partners, more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years."
That was a reference to an easing of rules of engagement that allowed for more aggressive air strikes and other offensive efforts. "He directed a tactical shift from shoving ISIS out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said of Trump in May.
Obama loyalists emphasized that Trump only changed tactics, rather than strategy. The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS is spearheaded by Brett McGurk, a special envoy who was appointed by Obama and has continued in that post under Trump.
"The plan ... was laid out two years ago, and has been executed pretty much in the manner and the schedule that was foreseen then," former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who led the Pentagon under Obama, told CNN.
Nauert didn't yield that point. "Well, they were forced to, right?" she said of the Obama team's counter-ISIS efforts. "We had ISIS taking over large swathes of country that our men and women had fought alongside, not just Iraqis, but other governments. We had fought to take these lands, on the part of the Iraqi government in many of these places, and then we saw all of those successes disappear when ISIS came in with their black flags and took over Fallujah, etc., and many other places as well."
And she echoed Trump's sentiments. "This administration has redoubled its efforts and we are having success and we are seeing that now," Nauert said.