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With 23,144 airstrikes in 2015, how effective has United States' war on terror been?

Ruchi Kumar | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:14 IST
QUICK PILL
  • Anti-Islamic State bombing calculus: 30,000 - 25,000 = 30,000.
  • The US Air Force has fired over 20,000 missiles and bombs in their 15-month campaign against the Islamic State, leading to the depletion of munition stockpiles

In a recent piece for the Council on Foreign Relations, Senior Fellow Micah Zanko put together some startling figures on the United States' never-ending war on terrorism in the Middle East.

Appropriately titled as 'How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2015?', Zanko drew a grim picture of the number of US-sponsored airstrikes and its eventual impact on global terrorism.

"The primary method for killing suspected terrorists is with stand-off precision airstrikes," he wrote. And that's exactly where the US has concentrated its efforts."We are killing them and will continue killing ISIS terrorists that pose a threat to us," the Department of Security spokesperson had said early on in 2015.

And, true to their word, in just one year, they've conducted a total of 23,144 airstrikes, most of them in Iraq and Syria, and the next highest in Afghanistan.

In figures obtained by Zanko from various sources, including the Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2010-2015 Airpower Statistics and CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office, the US has conducted nearly 22,110 airstrikes targeting the Islamic State fighters in the Iraq and Syria region in the past year.

Similarly, he notes, that another 947 airstrikes were conducted in Afghanistan in 2015, a country where the US forces were supposed to have been pulling out of following a 14-year-long war. This includes the erroneous bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz province in October that claimed 42 lives, including 24 patients, 14 staff and four caretakers.

Incidentally, the most reports suggest that the US will be deploying an additional 50 soldiers from Fort Durham to Afghanistan.

How effective have these airstrikes been?

It would, however, seem that despite the collective efforts of the US and its allies, little progress has been made in eliminating terrorist threats. "The "kill-em'-all with airstrikes" rule, is that it is not working," Zanko writes."Pentagon officials claim that at least 25,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed," he elaborates. "At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged.," he adds.

Essentially, the estimated number of Islamic State fighters, according to CIA in 2014, was between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters. And after over a year of airstrikes, the numbers quoted by US military spokesperson early this month was at an estimate of 30,000.

Zanko, who is also the author of the 'Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy', summarised it as follows:

Anti-Islamic State bombing calculus: 30,000 - 25,000 = 30,000

Is the US running out of bombs?

Meanwhile, a CNN report from last month suggested that the US may be running out of its bombs.

The US Air Force has fired over 20,000 missiles and bombs in the 15-month campaign against the Islamic State, leading to the depletion of munition stockpiles, it reports.

Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh, confirmed this saying that they were "expending munitions faster than we can replenish them", and has appealed for funding to be prepared for "the long fight".

First published: 11 January 2016, 3:38 IST
 
Ruchi Kumar @RuchiKumar

Ruchi Kumar is an Indian journalist living in Kabul with her cat Bukhari. On most days, she reports on the ongoings in the region. Rest of the time, she reads, writes and wanders around Kabul looking for people who will tell stories.

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