Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Wall St. Journal that U.S. airstrikes were having a heavy impact on ISIS. “It is disruptive to their planning and command and control,” said Gen. Dempsey. “These are high-value targets, senior leadership.”
Two of the strikes took place in early December killed Abd al Basit, the military commander of ISIS in Iraq, and Haji Mutazz, a right-hand man of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An earlier strike in November killed Radwin Talib, the ISIS governor of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. These killings bring the total number of high-value ISIS leaders killed to seven.
Another defense official told the Journal, “We’ve bombed their oil production, we struck the Humvees and MRAPs they stole from us and now we are targeting their leadership.”
Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve, told ABC News that a total of 1,361 airstrikes have been conducted in Iraq and Syria. More than 50 airstrikes have been conducted since Tuesday in support of a counteroffensive by the Kurdish Peshmerga. The offensive has reclaimed more than 100 square kilometers of territory in northwestern Iraq from ISIS.
In all, the airstrikes have killed more than 1,000 ISIS fighters, but some analysts question the effectiveness of the strategy. Critics point out that ISIS, like other terrorist groups, can replace many leaders and soldiers killed in combat. ISIS is well known for recruiting fighters from around the world. Many have come from western countries, including the United States.
Nevertheless, Ahmed Ali, an analyst from the Institute of the Study of War, told the Journal that he believes the impact of the strikes has been significant. “These are big hits and eliminating these figures always temporarily disrupts the organization,” he said, but acknowledged that the losses were unlikely to cripple ISIS permanently.
“We will continue to be persistent in this regard and we will strike Daesh at every possible opportunity,” said Gen. Terry. According to ABC, Terry used the Arabic acronym for ISIS rather than the English one to avoid legitimizing the group’s claim to be a formal Islamic State, and because it sounds like another Arabic word “that means to crush underneath the foot.”
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