45,000 Islamic State fighters killed in 2 years: US

An Iraqi soldier holds a national flag in the government complex in central Ramadi after Baghdad retook the city from the Islamic State (IS) in December last year.   | Photo Credit: Uncredited

About 45,000 jihadists have been killed in Iraq and Syria since the U.S.-led operation to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group began two years ago, a top general said Wednesday.

“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 [previously], that’s 45,000 enemy [fighters] taken off the battlefield,” said Lieutenant-General Sean MacFarland, who commands the U.S.-led coalition campaign against IS. Lt.-Gen. MacFarland said estimates for the overall remaining strength of IS vary from about 15,000 to 30,000 but he noted the jihadists are having increasing difficulties replenishing their ranks.

Easier to target jihadists

“The number of fighters on the front line has diminished. 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,” Lt.-Gen. MacFarland told Pentagon reporters via a video-call from Baghdad.

Officials also estimate IS has lost 25,000 sq. km of the territory it once held in its self-declared “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, or about 50 per cent and 20 per cent respectively in each country.

The U.S.-led military effort against the IS started exactly two years ago, aimed at halting the jihadists as they swept across Iraq and Syria.

Lt.-Gen. MacFarland was upbeat about the eventual recapture of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, saying it would herald the “beginning of the end” of the campaign.

But critics have blasted the pace of the war, which got off to a slow start and, despite more than 14,000 air strikes and an intense effort to train partner forces, still has not routed IS from much of its territory.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 11:00:47 PM |

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