Military Campaigns in Iraq and Syria Reducing Number of IS FightersAugust 26, 2016 in Uncategorized
The top United States commander for the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) group reported this month that military campaigns in Iraq and Syria have taken 45,000 enemy combatants off the battlefield and reduced the total number of IS fighters to as few as 15,000.
Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland disclosed that both the quality and number of IS fighters is declining, warning however that it is difficult to determine accurate estimates. Earlier estimates put the number of IS fighters between 19,000 and 25,000 however US officials have stated that the range is now roughly 15,000 to 20,000.
Stating that “the enemy is in retreat on all fronts,” MacFarland disclosed that US-backed local forces in both Iraq and in neighbouring Syria have been gaining ground, adding that the flow of foreign fighters into these two countries has decreased and that many people pressed into fighting for IS are unwilling or untrained. Speaking to Pentagon reporters during a video conference, MacFarland stated, “all I know is when we go someplace, its easier to go there now than it was a year ago. And the enemy doesn’t put up as much of a fight.”
MacFarland went on to state that Syrian democratic forces are on the brink of defeating IS in Manbij, Syria, in a matter of weeks. According to MacFarland, the city is largely in the hands of the Syrian democratic forces and the pockets of enemy resistance are shrinking daily, adding, “I don’t give it very long before that operation is concluded, and that will deal a decisive blow to the enemy.” Asked how long it will take, he stated possibly a week or two, however he noted that there was still a lot of enemy foreign fighters there battling hard to keep control of the city.
Meanwhile in neighbouring Iraq, MacFarland disclosed that Iraqi forces are in a position to begin to retake the northern city of Mosul, adding that the US still has quite a bit of work to do at the Qayyarah Air Base in northern Iraq before it can be used as a hub for the battle to retake Mosul. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 560 more US troops to Iraq in a bid to help transform the air base into a staging area for the eventual battle to oust IS from Mosul. The group has held the city since June 2014, using it as its headquarters. The US troops will include engineers, logistics personnel, security and communications forces. Some teams of US forces have been in and out of the base to evaluate it and the work that must be done, with officials stating that large numbers of troops have not yet arrived.
Despite successes in both countries against the militant group, MacFarland cautioned that Is will continue to be a threat, stating, “military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of Daesh,” using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic state group.” H e went on to state that “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.”