Loss of Quantity and Quality

The US-led coalition and partner forces in Iraq and Syria have killed approximately 25,000 ISIS fighters within the past year, and while a sizeable force remains, “they are not operating nearly as effectively as they have in the past,” the top US commander in the fight said. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said Wednesday in his last press conference in his position that over the past year the coalition and partners have “maintained the momentum of the campaign” to the point where “we spend more time thinking about what we’ll do to the enemy than what the enemy will do to us.” The total number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria is hard to estimate, though intelligence community assessments recently have remained the same at about 30,000. MacFarland said, though the coalition’s numbers “are squishy” and he is hesitant to quote them, he has seen estimates recently that range from that number to about half of it. “But what I do believe is the number of fighters on the frontline has diminished,” he said. “Not in quantity, but also in quality.” The attrition of fighters has accelerated, and fighters make mistakes now that they wouldn’t a year or so ago, MacFarland said, referencing the coalition’s destruction of an ISIS convoy near Fallujah earlier this year. However, MacFarland warned, this does not mean the fight is close to over. ISIS will continue to evolve into an insurgent force and terrorist organization focused on guerilla attacks, he said. (See also: Obama: Momentum Against ISIS Forces It to Change Tactics.)