First anniversary of US-led anti-ISIS air strikes

Saturday marks one year since launch of US-led international coalition air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

A photograph taken from Suruc in southeastern Turkey, near the Turkish-Syrian border, shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following US-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets on January 16, 2015

On August 8, 2014, the US-led international coalition conducted its first air strikes in Iraq against the ISIS in the country, before extending its operations to Syria in September against militants from the group holding territory in the neighboring country. Saturday is the first year anniversary of the launch of the international military intervention against ISIS that several Arab countries have taken part in.

Since the start of operations against the growing threat and territorial control of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, the military coalition has launched nearly 5,000 air strikes - 2,657 of in Iraq and 2,289 in Syria - causing the cost of US military operations to rise beyond $3.2 billion, according to figures released by US Central Command (CENTCOM) on Friday.

The US-led international military intervention against ISIS became known as Operation "Inherent Resolve," and involves a combination of air strikes to slow and ideally stop ISIS advances on the ground and a training effort to reinforce Iraq’s military forces which recently lost Anbar Province’s capital Ramadi to the militant group.

US President Barack Obama described the defeat of the Iraqi army in Ramadi as a "tactical setback." However, several US army generals in the coalition have repeatedly accused the Iraqi army of not having "sufficient will for battle."

Three thousand three hundred US soldiers, along with an additional 1,200 soldiers from 17 other countries, were deployed in Iraq as part of the training mission in 2014.

The US estimates that, as of April, ISIS militants have lost control of 25 to 30 percent of the populated areas they previously controlled in both Iraq and Syria. Thousands of militants have been killed in air strikes, US CENTCOM spokesman Pat Ryder told Pentagon reporters on Friday.

“Our coalition air power enables anti-ISIS ground forces in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “The faster ISIS falls, the sooner innocent civilians can return to a peaceful way of life,” Air Force General C.Q. Brown Jr., commander of the combined force air component of the coalition, said.

Brown also praised the coalition for its claimed ability to launch precise air strikes against ISIS targets while minimising collateral damage on the ground, stating that 99 percent of the 20,000-plus coalition strikes have used precision-guided munitions.

“Coalition airstrikes are the most precise in the history of warfare,” he said. “Conducting strikes in heavily populated areas where ISIS hides can present a challenge, but our coalition pilots are well disciplined and our weapon systems are extremely accurate."

Contradicting Brown's claims, there have been media reports that between 459 and 591 civilians were killed by US-led coalition air strikes targeting ISIS  in Syria and Iraq. Airwars, an independent investigative project tracking the international war against ISIS, compiled these figures using a wide range of sources including local media, witness reports, social media and video evidence.

The figures given in the report by the project contrast greatly with the very low number of two civilian casualties acknowledged by the US-led coalition as “likely” to have been caused by its air strikes.

The huge difference between the figures indicates “a worrying lack of urgency on the part of all coalition members regarding civilian deaths,” the  Airwars report said.

Following the loss of Ramadi, Senator John McCain said that 75 percent of the air raids against ISIS don't hit their targets, because there is no one on the ground to give them pointers.


TRTWorld and agencies