The U.S.-led multinational coalition launched almost 35,000 strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria over the past six years, officials told Military Times Wednesday.
From August 2014 to September 2020, aircraft of the Combined Joint Task Force conducted 34,917 strikes in the region.
“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,” Marine Capt. Jose F. Uriarte, CJTF spokesperson, told Military Times in an email.
“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.
Uriarte did not immediately respond to questions about how many missions have been conducted this year.
Currently, ISIS, or Daesh, is unable to maintain a foothold anywhere in Iraq or Syria, Kurdish media network Rudaw reported.
“Five years ago, when I was here as a coalition spokesman, 40,000 Daesh fighters controlled an area of approximately 110 thousand square kilometers,” Col. Wayne Marotto, another CJTF-OIR spokesman, told Rudaw. “They had victories in Raqqa, in Mosul, in Fallujah and Ramadi. … By 2019 their territorial ambitions were crushed.”
But Uriarte said unless pressure is maintained, the radical Islamic group could regain power.
“CJTF-OIR has positioned mechanized infantry assets, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles, in Syria to ensure the protection of Coalition forces and preserve their freedom of movement so they may continue Defeat Daesh operations safely,” Uriarte said.
In October, Iraq’s counterterrorism service and other coalition forces carried out an operation in the Anbar governorate that killed a senior ISIS financier," Marotto said. An airstrike was also carried out in Nineveh, the northern Iraq province that includes Mosul, where a tunnel full of ISIS members were hiding.
The CJTF spokesmen declined to reveal the types of munitions used in the strike or in any of its previous attacks on enemy targets in the region, citing operational security, but said “an array of aircraft types, from fixed wing, to rotary aircraft.”
In October, the 492nd Fighter Squadron of the 48th Fighter Wing out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath in Great Britain returned home after a six-month deployment to the region.
During that time the “Bolars,” flying F-15E Strike Eagles, logged more than 8,500 flight hours and dropped roughly 350 precision-guided munitions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
In late September, a U.S. Navy F/A-18F struck Islamic State positions in Iraq, the first time in nearly two-and-a-half years that a carrier-based fighter jet had conducted such ops in support of OIR.
The Super Hornet struck the militants Sept. 23 after launching from the aircraft carrier Nimitz, which was underway in the Arabian Gulf at the time, according to U.S. 5th Fleet. The last such strike was by USS Theodore Roosevelt in March 2018.
CJTF declined to comment on which unit has replaced the Bolars, due to operational security.
Composed of airmen from the 492nd Fighter Squadron, 492nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit and the 48th Operations Support Squadron, the wing returned to Lakenheath Oct. 15-24.
“This deployment has been a testament to the hard work and training these units put in on a daily basis,” said Capt. Branden Clifton, 492 Fighter Squadron weapons officer, in a statement. “It is good to have the squadron back home and the families reunited after a successful deployment.”
[Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to properly reflect the aircraft 492nd FS brought to U.S. Central Command.]
Jared is a freelance journalist, a former Marine and a veterans advocate living in Los Angeles.