By Chris Jennewein
Amid Presidential candidates’ calls for “carpet bombing” ISIS and praise for Russian intervention, it’s easy to forget that the United States is now in the 16th month of a relentless air campaign against the Islamic terrorists.
Every morning since Sept. 23, 2014, the Defense Department has released a detailed summary to the press of the previous day’s airstrikes by the United States and its coalition partners. Here’s a summary of the reports from Operation Inherent Resolve for just the last week:
- Saturday, Dec. 19 — 3 strikes in Syria, 17 in Iraq
- Friday, Dec. 18 — 3 strikes in Syria, 19 in Iraq
- Thursday, Dec. 17 — 7 strikes in Syria, 11 in Iraq
- Wednesday, Dec. 16 — 6 strikes in Syria, 11 in Iraq
- Tuesday, Dec. 15 — 6 strikes in Syria, 8 in Iraq
- Monday, Dec. 14 — 3 strikes in Syria, 13 in Iraq
- Sunday, Dec. 13 — 7 strikes in Syria and 15 in Iraq
The numbers understate the impact. The Pentagon’s definition of a single strike covers everything from one missile fired by a drone to a massed attack by giant B-1B bombers. The following excerpts from the daily reports, which use ISIS’ official name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, provide some perspective:
“Near Ramadi, five strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL tactical vehicles, two ISIL vehicles, nine ISIL staging areas, five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, three ISIL bed down locations, cratered eight ISIL-used roads, and denied ISIL access to terrain.”
“Near Hasakah, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 13 ISIL buildings, an ISIL bunker, and an ISIL fighting position.”
“Near Mosul, two strikes struck multiple large ISIL tactical units and three suicide bombers and destroyed 12 ISIL machine guns, 13 ISIL fighting positions, six ISIL vehicles and an ISIL vehicle bomb.”
“Near Hasakah and Dayr Az Zawr, one strike destroyed 283 ISIL vehicles.”
San Diego has played a major part in this campaign, with jets from the carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the amphibious assault ships USS Makin Island and USS Essex, carrying out strikes. Missiles launched from Predator drones made in San Diego have dispatched the notorious executioner “Jihadi John” and other ISIS leaders.
The campaign gets very little national media attention. Russia’s small-scale intervention and the French strikes after the terrorist attacks in Paris have more frequently been top news. With so little publicity, its not surprising why President Obama and the military come under criticism. Ignorance leads to doubt.
That’s why residential candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz (“carpet bomb them into oblivion”) and Donald Trump (” if Putin wants to knock the hell out of ISIS, I’m all for it 100 percent) can be dismissive of U.S. military action.
But when you read the detailed reports, it’s hard not to believe that progress is being made. After all, this relentless air campaign targets an adversary that must smuggle in all weapons and supplies. ISIS isn’t a country in the usual sense. It doesn’t have an industrial base. It can’t make guns, bullets and bombs. Every piece of equipment we bomb is one less that ISIS has.
Last week, after a meeting of the National Security Council, President Obama said the U.S. was increasing the number of strikes as well as targeting individual terrorist leaders.
“We are hitting ISIL harder than ever. Coalition aircraft — our fighters, bombers and drones — have been increasing the pace of their strikes, nearly 9,000 as of today,” the President said. “ISIL leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple: ‘You are next.'”
The American-led air campaign may not make prime-time TV news, but it’s hard not to believe we’re making progress.
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