It’s been a little over a year since the United States and partner countries launched an air campaign meant to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Later named Operation Inherent Resolve, the plan consists largely of “targeted airstrikes against ISIL terrorist convoys” in Iraq and Syria. So far, 62 countries have joined the coalition against the group including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, but only 21 provide air and military support and just 12 have launched airstrikes. Nearly 4 out of 5 airstrikes on ISIL territories have been conducted by the U.S., which so far has spent $3.5 billion dollars on the operation, an average of nearly $10 million dollars a day.
According to the independent monitoring group Airwars, airstrikes have killed about 15,000 ISIL militants. The CIA estimates that the group has about 31,000 active fighters, but that may be a conservative estimate. Other groups such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claim there may be as many as 100,000 fighters.
On the ground
The U.S. has also deployed about 3,550 troops to Iraq to train and support Iraqi soldiers in an effort to help them regain key cities lost to ISIL, such as Ramadi. A total of 11,000 Iraqi troops have been trained so far, with a goal of having 24,000 troops trained by the end of the year.
In Syria, the U.S. hopes to have 3,000 fighters vetted and trained by year's end, but so far they've only trained 60. Some of them, including their commander, were captured by Al Qaeda fighters last month.
Kurdish groups, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes are responsible for the most significant victories against ISIL. In Iraq, they are responsible for nearly 75% of the land that has been re-taken from ISIL since last fall. ISIL still controls large swaths of land, particularly in Iraq and the Red Cross estimates that more than 10 million people are living in areas controlled by the group.
Already this year, nearly 5,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq, adding to the 12,282 the UN estimates were killed in 2014. More than 3 million people have been displaced by the fighting there. In Syria, more than 200,000 people have been killed and an estimated 9 million have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.
Sunday on Third Rail, we ask: Why hasn’t the Muslim world defeated ISIL? Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, Oubai Shahbandar, a former Syrian Coalition communications adviser and Douglas Ollivant, a former Director for Iraq at the National Security Council join us for the debate. Tune in at 6PM ET/3PM PT on Al Jazeera America.
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