The U.S.-led military campaign under command of President Donald Trump has made dramatic progress against ISIS in 2017.
ISIS retains historically low numbers of fighters, controls little territory and has lost much of its command and control facilities in Iraq and Syria. The vast majority of the military progress against the group occurred in 2017.
“During 2017 over 60,000 square kilometers were liberated from ISIS across Iraq and Syria,” British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney told the Pentagon press corps Wednesday, explaining that “more than 98 percent of the land once claimed by the terrorist group has been returned to the people.” This estimate means ISIS lost nearly 60 percent of the territory it once controlled in 2017.
Gedney added that 4.5 million Iraqis and Syrians were liberated from ISIS by the U.S.-backed coalition in 2017 out of the 7.7 million total since the military campaign began in 2017. Gedney’s estimate indicates approximately 60 percent of total freed civilians were liberated in 2017.
Success against the terrorist group has been so rapid the U.S.-led coalition estimates only approximately 1,000 ISIS fighters remain on the battlefield across Iraq and Syria. This number is particularly striking given a 2014 CIA estimate of up to 31,500 fighters for the terrorist group.
The 1000 remaining fighters are largely isolated in various desert pockets besieged from the air by U.S. aircraft and probed by U.S.-backed fighters on the ground. Gedney also boasted that nearly 130 “ISIS leaders or high value targets” were killed by the coalition in 2017 alone.
The loss of territory, population under its control, and leaders has choked off ISIS from many of the oil fields it once relied upon to gleam revenue from and thrown a wrench in its propaganda efforts.
— Charlie Winter (@charliewinter) October 18, 2017
The collapse of the physical caliphate however does not mean U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria are going anywhere anytime soon. U.S. military officials expect ISIS to morph back into its insurgent roots and mount terror attacks across both countries.
Western security officials also fear the threat of returning ISIS foreign fighters and the continued ability of the terror group to inspire attacks. New York City saw two ISIS-inspired attacks since November despite the major losses for the group.
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