U.S.-led coalition aircraft recently conducted a major offensive against the Islamic State group in northern Iraq, conducting 133 airstrikes over 10 days targeting a cave complex that served as a safe haven for terrorists. That’s more than any monthly airstrike total in Iraq and Syria since 2019.
The offensive, in support of Iraqi ground forces, destroyed 61 hideouts, 24 caves, and eliminated “a number of terrorists,” said Col. Wayne Marotto, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
Iraqi Ministry of Defense spokesman Yehia Rasool said the mission was aimed at drying up the sources of terrorism. The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service led the ground effort.
The strikes focused on an area called Qarachogh Mountain, about 50 kilometers southwest of Erbil. Video of the strikes posted by Kurdistan 24 shows large plumes of smoke rising from a mountainous area.
Coalition airstrikes have largely slowed in Iraq and Syria since ISIS lost its self-proclaimed caliphate and the group has largely moved underground. According to the most recent information posted by OIR, there were a total of 25 strikes in both Iraq and Syria in December 2020.
The U.S. government estimates that between 8,000 and 16,000 ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, with the group operating as a “low-level” insurgency in rural areas, according to a February report by the Defense Department’s Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve.