In 2022, U.S. Central Command executed 313 operations in Iraq and Syria as part of the task to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, now known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). More than 95% of those operations collaborated with the Iraqi Security Force or the Syrian Democratic Forces. As a consequence, nearly 700 ISIS fighters were eradicated, and another 374 were imprisoned. No U.S. service members were killed as part of the measures.
“This really speaks to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform and also the enduring commitment of the United States—from the strategic down to the tactical level—to completing this fight,” said Dana Stroul, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.
During a conference call, Stroul described to journalists the mission to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria remains a crucial emphasis of the national defense strategy. She also stated that, despite successes, ISIL remains a threat, and there is yet more work to be done.
One benefit the U.S. has against ISIL is the connections it has, not just with Iraq and the Syrian Democratic Forces but also with allies around the world.
“What was striking to me is the enduring commitment not only of the United States but` of our European partners, as well as New Zealand, Australia, and others,” she said. “Our partners worldwide recognize the importance of this mission, recognize that ISIS remains a threat, and are committed to this coalition.”
Also significant are Iraq’s advancements since the U.S. transitioned a year ago to an advise, assist, allow, and intelligence-sharing mission there, spoke by Army Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. He said the
The U.S. persists in retaining a presence in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government.
“In Iraq, things continue to improve in terms of their ability to demonstrate and execute independent operations as they’re building capabilities, capacity, and competence towards gaining an independent ability to conduct enduring operations, sustainable, enduring operations against ISIS,” he expressed.
The general stated much has changed in Iraq since the last time he was in the country in 2005. He said Baghdad is “alive and awake and lighted at night.” The Iraqi military is employed in operations that are part of the “Defeat ISIL” task in Iraq, as well as equipping security for the Arabian Gulf Cup soccer tournament being held Jan. 6-19 in Iraq for the first time in 44 years.
“So, there is improvement and continued room to develop and build the capability and ability, but also a very capable force,” he stated. Stroul said the U.S. also remains determined to the D-ISIL mission in Syria in collaboration with the Syrian Democratic Forces.
“Not only are U.S. forces continuing to prosecute unilateral operations against ISIS, but we maintain a robust pace of partnered operations with the SDF, who are the only combat-credible, capable, and committed partner present in northeast Syria today willing to join us in this fight,” she expressed.
Of importance is the number of ISIL prisoners—as many as 10,000—who are in the possession of Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria.
“We know that ISIL continues to have its eyes on these detainees and sees them as the path to reconstituting and resurging across the Middle East, which is why we must stay the course [and] continue to work with the coalition in supporting the SDF to maintain custody of these detainees securely and humanely.”