Washington- The U.S.-led coalition has killed 50,000 ISIS militants in the last two years in Iraq and Syria, marking a milestone in the long terror fight, a senior U.S. military official said, according to AFP.
The official made the remarks for the first time and called the figures a conservative estimate, but he said it was more than what others have stated before.
The operation, using planes and drones from a dozen or so members of the anti-ISIS coalition, has since August 2014 conducted some 16,000 airstrikes against the jihadists in Iraq and Syria — two-thirds of them in Iraq, the official added.
The coalition tally of civilians killed in the operations is 173 – though critics say the real figure is far higher.
Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, echoed suggestions that the ongoing military campaign is reducing the numbers and capabilities of the ISIS group.
“Unfortunately we are seeing younger fighters; perhaps adolescent age, rather than adults,” Dorrian said.
He added that the vehicle-borne explosive devices are less sophisticated than they have been.
He said that while earlier vehicle bombs were carried in armored vehicles, lately ISIS has been using regular vehicles.
“What that tells us is they’re beginning to run out of those resources,” said Dorrian, speaking via teleconference from Iraq.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s not still an extraordinarily dangerous situation. They are not going to go quietly, but they are going to go.”
In August, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland said about 45,000 militants have been taken off the battlefields.
Speaking to a small group of reporters Thursday, the military official said coalition airstrikes could be more aggressive in places like Mosul, where Iraqi troops are battling to retake the city, but civilian casualties are a risk.
MacFarland told Washington Post that the military campaigns in Iraq and Syria have taken 45,000 enemy combatants off the battlefield and reduced the total number of ISIS militants to as few as 15,000.
MacFarland said that both the quality and number of ISIS militants is declining, and he warned that it is difficult to determine accurate numbers.
Earlier estimates put the number of ISIS militants between 19,000 and 25,000, but U.S. officials say the range is now roughly 15,000 to 20,000.