Two years after the U.S. began its counter-ISIS mission, the outgoing commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group said Wednesday that near 45,000 ISIS-linked fighters had been killed.
WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – Two years after the U.S. began its counter-ISIS mission, the outgoing commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group said Wednesday that about 45,000 ISIS-linked fighters have been killed.
“Although it’s no measure of success and its difficult to confirm, we estimate that over the past 11 months we’ve killed about 25,000 enemy fighters. When you add that to the 20,000 estimated killed prior to our arrival, that’s 45,000 enemies taken off the battlefield,” Army Lt. General Sean MacFarland told reporters via video conference at the Pentagon. “I only tell you this number to provide a sense to the scale of our support and perhaps explain why enemy resistance is beginning to crumble.”
MacFarland said that as the ranks have been depleted, civilians and ISIS administrative officials have been forced into roles on the front lines, such as manning check points.
“The number of fighters on the front line have diminished,” said MacFarland, including that the numbers are “pretty soft.”
U.S. officials have said there are between 15,000 and 20,000 ISIS militants, a drop from earlier estimates of 19,000 to 25,000.
“They’ve diminished not only in quantity, but also in quality. We don’t see them operating nearly as effectively as they have in the past, which makes them even easier targets for us so as a result they’re attrition has accelerated here of late,” he said.
The flow of foreign fighters joining ISIS in Iraq and Syria dropped from 1,500 to 2,000 a month down to 200 within the past year, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten told reporters in April.
MacFarland estimated that ISIS has lost 25,000 square kilometers (9,650 square miles) of the territory it once held in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, or about 50 percent and 20 percent respectively in each country.
“Military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS. “We can expect the enemy to adapt, to morph into a true insurgent force and terrorist organization capable of horrific attacks like the one here on July 3 in Baghdad and those others we’ve seen around the world.”
His comments echoed a conclusion similar to those made by some of the nation’s top military and intelligence officials.
President Barack Obama said himself last week that ISIS will continue to be a threat after it’s “inevitably” routed from its strongholds, highlighting the group’s ability to motivate “lone wolf” supporters to launch small-scale attacks that are harder to detect and prevent.
“We’re going to keep going after ISIL aggressively across every front of this campaign,” Obama said at a news conference at the Pentagon following a meeting of his National Security Council, using an alternate acronym for ISIS. “I am pleased with the progress that we’ve made on the ground in Iraq and Syria. We’re far from freeing Mosul and Raqqa.”
The first U.S. airstrikes struck ISIS in Iraq on Aug. 8, 2014, followed by targets in Syria, then Afghanistan and then Libya. The U.S.-led coalition has launched more than 14,000 airstrikes in the two-year war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The effort in both of Iraq and Syria has cost the U.S. military over $8.4 billion.