Thursday, December 8, 2016

US government claims that 50,000 ISIS fighters have been killed since the beginning of the US intervention.

A Yazidi couple inspects the damage to their home after it was liberated from ISIS. AP. 

The US government claims that 50,000 ISIS fighters have been killed since the beginning of the US intervention against them in Iraq and Syria. ABC News. The government claims that they have killed 50,000 ISIS fighters, 5,000 more then was reported last August. The government has been reluctant to publish casualty figures during the war against ISIS since the terror group has been able to replace fighters very quickly. The government campaign also claims that ISIS is beginning to feel the effects of the bombing campaign against them. Many of their fighters are now under the age of 18 and the quality and quantity of car bombs and IED's has dropped. 

My Comment:
I find these numbers dubious at best. It sounds as though the government is claiming that their air campaign alone killed 50,000 people. Considering that ISIS has been involved with massive battles with Iraqi and Syrian forces, and only had 100,000 troops at their peak, I seriously doubt that 50,000 fighters were killed by our airstrikes alone. If it was true then ISIS would be almost completely out of fighters and I don't think that is the case. 

What could make those number make more sense? Well if they included casualties from the Libyan intervention and the militants killed in Afghanistan... it still wouldn't even be close. If it counts all the ISIS fighters killed on the ground by our allies in Iraq and Syria then it would be a lot more credible. I guess if the number was killed and wounded it would make more sense as well.

I am guessing the vast majority of ISIS fighters who have died have not died in airstrikes. My guess is the majority of them died in artillery strikes, most of them conducted by Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground. That has been the major method of killing in modern warfare so I would doubt that it would be anything else in this war. 

Let's assume that the 50,000 deaths number is correct. What does that mean for ISIS? In the past ISIS was able to replace their fighters as they were killed so the heavy casualty rates have not affected them that much. As their men have died they were able to bring in new fighters, so the number of people on the front line hasn't really decreased.

That is not true anymore. With Turkey cutting off the border area between Syria and Turkey, ISIS has lost their main pipeline for new recruits across the world. ISIS prospects are now being told to either go to Libya or strike and cause chaos in their home countries. Neither of those options help ISIS defend their holdings in Iraq and Syria. 

Right now ISIS's only source of new recruits is to draft local people. And right now ISIS is down to young men and children for recruits. That tells me that the casualties they are taking are unsustainable. Even if the 50,000 number seems a bit high to me, I do think that ISIS has lost quite a few of their  troops. 

I do think that the US led air campaign has a much bigger effect on ISIS on another level though. Losing tens of thousands of troops is not a good thing for ISIS, but what is really hurting them is the deaths of their leadership. ISIS has lost quite a few of their higher leaders in airstrikes and commando raids by the coalition. And they have also lost quite a few of their skilled workers and specialists.

The most important thing I noticed in this report is the fact that ISIS has lost some of their capabilities in making car bombs. I am guessing this has a lot to do with coalition airstrikes. Not only have we killed a lot of their bomb makers, we also have destroyed many of the vehicles they had captured during the war. And I also think we have destroyed their nascent chemical weapons program as well.

No matter what the actual numbers are, ISIS can't continue to take these kind of casualties if they want to continue fighting. Such casualty rates are unsustainable and if ISIS really has lost 50,000 fighters, then they are in serious trouble. They can no longer recruit new fighters outside of Iraq and Syria and if these casualty rates continue then their defeat is inevitable. 


  1. Its in a governments best interest to lie about the number of enemy killed. Its been done for thousands of years. No need to think otherwise now.

    1. Very true. It was before my time but I remember reading about the old body counts from the Vietnam War.