U.S. officials: 6,000 ISIS fighters and “more than half” of the group’s leadership killed

ISISU.S. officials: 6,000 ISIS fighters and “more than half” of the group’s leadership killed

Published 23 January 2015

The U.S.-led airstrikes campaign has “taken more than half” of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) leadership, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones said. Jones said the airstrikes were having a “devastating” effect on ISIS. “We estimate that the airstrikes have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Jones said. He added that the airstrikes have “destroyed more than a thousand of ISIS vehicles inside Iraq.”

The U.S.-led airstrikes campaign has “taken more than half” of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) leadership, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones told Al Arabiya News Channel Thursday.

Jones said the airstrikes were having a “devastating” effect on ISIS. “We estimate that the airstrikes have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Jones said.

Jones added that the airstrikes have “destroyed more than a thousand of ISIS vehicles inside Iraq.”

The ambassador noted that the numbers were “not so important in themselves,” but that “they do show the degradation of ISIS.”

“They show ISIS inability to supply forces inside Iraq,” he said.

CNN reports that the estimate used by the ambassador was calculated by U.S. Central Command, according to a U.S. military official.

As is the case with any military command, CENTCOM has been keeping a running estimate of ISIS fighters killed, but has not made this estimate public.

The U.S. intelligence community estimates that ISIS forces total between 9,000 to 18,000 fighters, but that the Islamist group can also draw on thousands of other fighters whose loyalty to the group is not as intense, bringing the force it could muster to around 31,000 fighters.

In a press conference, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel refused to offer specific figures, but said that “thousands” of ISIS fighters have been killed.

Echoing Hagel, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman, said on Thursday that the United States is not keeping a “body count,” and that it would be wrong to state that there is such a count. He called it a “tally” and said the notion of a body count suggests the discredited Vietnam War era statistics. Kirby stressed the tally was not aimed at showing any metric of success against ISIS.

Secretary of State Kerry, using words similar to those used by Ambassador Jones, told reporters in London that the strikes have “halted” ISIS momentum, and reclaimed “more than 700 square kilometers” from ISIS in Iraq.

CNN notes that airstrikes around Mosul have been stepped up significantly to support Peshmerga fighters on the advance in the region. The effort now is to cut a key ISIS supply line into Mosul, a U.S. military official said.