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Military progress in Mosul leaves Trump in an awkward position

ISIS is struggling in the battle for Mosul. Does Donald Trump regret his condemnations of the mission?
Iraqi forces deploy on Oct. 17, 2016 in the area of al-Shurah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State group. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty)
Iraqi forces deploy on Oct. 17, 2016 in the area of al-Shurah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State group.
Two years ago, when ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, it was a major development, reinforcing perceptions surrounding the terrorist group's potency. Last year, however, ISIS was pushed backwards, leaving Mosul as its last major territory in Iraq.Though the conflict isn't over, USA Today reports that there's been real progress in forcing ISIS from Mosul.

Islamic State fighters are in disarray and struggling to fend off a rapid offensive by Iraqi forces to recapture Mosul and expel the militants from their last major stronghold in the country, a top U.S. military official said."They're lacking purpose motivation and direction," Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin said in a phone interview from Baghdad, referring to the Islamic State. "I've never seen them so disorganized."The pace of the battle reflects dramatic improvements in Iraq's military and its ability to coordinate operations with a U.S.-led air campaign, which is pounding the militants at a record pace."You're watching ISIS be annihilated," Martin said of the militant group.

While that sounds encouraging, I'm curious to hear more from the White House about the president's reaction to these developments -- because other than ISIS members themselves, no one in the Western world was as publicly critical of the mission in Mosul as Donald Trump.As regular readers may recall, a few weeks before Election Day in the U.S., Trump told a national audience that the military offensive in Mosul is part of an elaborate, international conspiracy to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign.A week later, Trump went further, condemning the U.S.-backed offensive in Mosul as “a total disaster” that’s leaving the United States looking “dumb.” Soon after, the Republican kept complaining, insisting the campaign in Mosul should’ve been kept secret. “I’m telling you, folks, our leadership – I went to an Ivy League school, but there’s some words that you can’t describe any better: Our leadership is stupid,” Trump told a Florida audience. “These are stupid people.”Three days before Election Day, Trump declared, “What a group of losers we have,” in apparent reference to the military and civilian commanders who have helped with the Mosul campaign. The same day, the Republican again whined that the military offensive was somehow intended to undermine his political campaign and help his opponent.Even at the time, there was bipartisan agreement that Trump's rhetoric was indefensibly foolish, though voters apparently didn't care. But now that the operation in Mosul is producing encouraging results, it's worth circling back with the mission's fiercest American critic: does the president still believe the battle for Mosul is “a total disaster,” overseen by "losers" and "stupid people," who were conspiring to undermine Trump?