Several leaders of Islamic State militant group have been killed in Iraq in targeted US air strikes in recent weeks, dealing a blow to the extremist jihadist forces, the Pentagon said on Friday.
“I can confirm that since mid-November, targeted coalition air strikes successfully killed multiple senior and mid-level leaders within the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
The action came as US and Iraqi forces step up operations in Iraq, officials said, part of an expanding coalition effort ahead of an expected offensive next year to try to retake key cities seized by the militant group.
“We believe that the loss of these key leaders degrades ISIL’s ability to command and control current operations against Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), including Kurdish and other local forces in Iraq,” he said in a statement.
“While we do not discuss the intelligence and targeting details of our operations, it is important to note that leadership, command and control nodes, facilities, and equipment are always part of our targeting calculus,” he said.
“The success of these air strikes demonstrates the coalition’s resolve in enabling the ISF to disrupt and degrade ISIL as they continue to regain control of their territory,” Kirby said.
At a Pentagon news conference, Lieutenant General James L Terry, commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent
Resolve, said the strategic advantage and tremendous strength of the US-led international coalition of 40 countries will ultimately lead to the defeat of Daesh or the IS.
“As a coalition, we will relentlessly pursue Daesh in order to degrade and destroy its capabilities and defeat their efforts. Up to this point, we have conducted more than 1,300 air strikes. Combined efforts like these are having a significant effect on Daesh’s ability to command and control, to resupply, and to conduct manoeuvring.
“We will continue to be persistent in this regard and we will strike Daesh at every possible opportunity,” he said.
“We will do this not only through precision strikes, but also by enabling our partners to expand their footprint and expand their influence, remove the opportunities for Daesh to manipulate youth, harm citizens, deny basic services and recruit fighters,” he added.