The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS has recorded more than 10,000 ISIS deaths, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken claims. It is hard to independently verify this number, but in general what do you think about this statement and how would you evaluate the campaign against ISIS so far? Read few comments.
Mathieu Guidère, Writer, Professor, University of Toulouse
This number can be verified by crossing with ISIS communiques and videotaped declarations about the death of its ”martyrs”. According to my personal body count and by adding the numbers of declared “martyrs” each month, ISIS has lost between 7000 and 8000 fighters since the beginning of the international coalition bombing campaign in August 2014. Also, note that 2/3 of these casualties are declared by ISIS command in Iraq, the other 1/3 is declared by ISIS command in Syria, and more than 500 deads are foreign fighters, what ISIS records as ”Muhajirun Martyrs”.
Natasha Underhill, Lecturer in International Relations, Nottingham Trent University
In terms of the level of IS-related deaths claimed by the US, it is too soon tell if these numbers are actual IS members or if this includes collateral damage figures. 10,000 deaths seems very unlikely at this point but since the numbers have not be independently verified it is really hard to tell not only the numbers of IS members killed, but how many members IS actually has. CIA estimates state that at its highest point the numbers of IS members is 31,500 but again this is extremely difficult to corroborate.
In terms of the counter-strategy against IS, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed. Claims by the US that the campaign is succeeding seem to be quite idealistic and from what we can see in both Iraq and Syria a little too early to claim. The airstrike campaign, although successful in slowing down IS, has not been able to achieve the levels of success that were initially envisioned. There needs to be a clearer policy developed that will focus not just on an airstrike campaign but that would consider very carefully the use of ground troops in a coordinated effort. These ground forces should not, however, be led by the US nor the UK as this would provide IS with the anti-Western sentiment it craves for its propaganda machine. instead, focus should be placed on those members of the coalition who are key players within the region and who have the military prowess to take on a challenge like the IS campaign. These countries would include Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Another major failure of the counter-IS strategy has been the lack of focus on the political side of the issue i.e. the instability in Syria and the growing sectarian war in Iraq. These issues are providing IS with clear openings to expand their scope of territorial ambitions while also providing them with a growing level of support from those citizens who feel their government has all but abandoned them.
Overall, the campaign against IS is working but is not doing enough to really tackle the growing threat from the group.
Ramzy Mardini, Nonresident Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council
I believe the numbers are exaggerated on the one hand, and no way of confirming on the other. I would also suspect that not all those numbers killed by coalition air strikes are ISIS or even insurgents.
But it doesn’t matter how many ISIS fighters the coalition kills from the air. What matters is if they are killing faster than ISIS is recruiting. It was generally thought that ISIS was about 20-30 thousand members. If the U.S. has killed 10,000 members, the organization would likely collapse or splinter, and certainly not hold the capacity to gain territory and maintain offensive capability.
In my view, the U.S. military involvement has helped ISIS recruit members faster than it can kill them in the battlefield.
Rodger Shanahan, Nonresident Fellow, Lowy Institute for International Policy
People need to remember the anti-ISIS campaign is looked at in terms of years, rather than months. At the same time, the US wants to avoid becoming decisively committed so it has committed only limited resources. As a consequence, the campaign has generally proceeded in a satisfactory manner, with some obvious setbacks in Ramadi. Territory in the north has been reclaimed and Iraqi troops are being re-trained. Political progress has been disappointing, particularly the fact that the Iraqi parliament has yet to pass the National Guard bill.
The situation in Syria is different given the Assad regime has suffered battlefield losses against IS in Palmyra, but there are a range of other Islamist actors in Syria so it is not just a battle against IS there.