The US-led anti-ISIS coalition launched nearly 35,000 airstrikes over the past six years, US officials told Military Times on Wednesday. From August 2014 to September 2020, coalition aircraft carried out 34,917 strikes in Iraq and Syria.
The US military maintains a presence in Syria under the mission of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Operation Inherent Resolve or the Combined Joint Task Force. Although President Trump has said US troops are in the region to “secure” oil fields, and a recent small troop surge was made after confrontations with Russian and Syrian soldiers, the military sticks with the line that they are in Syria to fight ISIS.
“Combined Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) continues to work by, with, and through our local partners in Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh [ISIS],” Capt. Jose Uriarte, CJTF spokesperson, told Military Times.
Most of the US airstrikes against ISIS likely took place between 2014 and 2018, while the militant group had control of major cities in the region. “Despite the territorial defeat of ISIS, the degradation of its leadership, and the widespread refutation of its ideology, this violent Islamist extremist group still poses a threat,” Uriarte said.
The US-led operations against ISIS in cities like Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, were devastating to the civilian populations. The monitoring group Airwars and Amnesty International teamed up to investigate the civilian death toll in the battle of Raqqa. The investigation found more than 1,600 civilians were killed by airstrikes in Raqqa between June 2017 and October 2017.
The Syrian government has been engaged in heavy fighting against ISIS in recent months. According to a UK-based monitor, heavy clashes in early October between the two sides resulted in the deaths of 41 Syrian soldiers and 49 ISIS fighters.