Unnamed Pentagon officials have offered their first figures on the number of ISIS fighters killed over the course of the last two years in Iraq and Syria, insisting that the “conservative estimate” of the matter is that the US-led coalition alone has killed 50,000 ISIS fighters.
It’s unclear exactly what the US considers to be part of their coalition, for instance whether Russian and Syrian forces killing ISIS fighters in Syria count as part of this toll, and indeed how many people the US has killed from other groups that have been included in the toll.
The last figure the Pentagon offered, from Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland back in August, claimed 45,000 ISIS had been “taken off the field” overall, but this of course was not all people killed. The officials insisted that the huge death toll proved that the war has been “effective” in combating ISIS.
But while 50,000 is a lot of dead people, it’s not clear how much it has impacted ISIS’ force size, as the group has through most of the war shown an ability to recruit new fighters. Indeed, despite claiming 50,000 ISIS fighters killed, the US has never estimated ISIS to have anywhere near 50,000 fighters at any given time.