A new U.S. Special Operations “targeting force” that will be deployed to Iraq to go after ISIS leaders, and the possibility of the United Kingdom’s broadening airstrikes against ISIS into Syria are the latest signs of increasing pressure on the terror group.
This all comes nearly three weeks after ISIS claimed responsibility for the deadly coordinated attacks in Paris, leading to French strikes against the group and prompting French President Francois Hollande to build an international coalition.
What Is the New US Force?
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the House Armed Services Committee that the new force will complement the broader role of U.S. Special Operations forces in the region.
“We’re deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on ISIL,” he said.
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”
At a later talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, he explained the task force’s goal will be “to take out ISIL leadership, to capture ISIL leadership to rescue hostages, as we’ve done… to collect intelligence. And to make ISIL wonder, as the way I put it today was, when they go to bed tonight, who’s going to be coming in the window.”
U.S. military spokesman Col. Steve Warren in Baghdad spoke to reporters via video link and said the force will likely number fewer than 100 people, with most of them being support and aviation support personnel. He said the actual number of “trigger-pullers” would be “a very small number,” probably in the low double-digits.
Warren said the force would conduct raids that will focus on high-value targets and will “contribute to strengthening that border, reducing that porousness” of ISIS leaders between Iraq and Syria. “Because that’s a lot of times who’s either directing the cross-border operations or who’s physically going across the borders,” he said.
“So make no mistake about it, these forces, along with their Iraqi partners that they’ll conduct their operations with and always in consultation with the Iraqi government, will be conducting raids.”
How Much Has the US Fight Against ISIS Cost?
The United States spent $5.2 billion in fighting ISIS between Aug. 8, 2014, and Oct. 31, according to the Pentagon’s latest estimate.
They report that the average daily cost is $11 million over 450 days of operations as part of the mission named “Inherent Resolve.”
How Are Other Countries Increasing Their Fight Against ISIS?
The Americans aren’t the only ones making changes to their strategy against ISIS. The British Parliament has launched a 10-hour debate session to decide whether they should approve further airstrikes.
Prime Minister David Cameron supports the strikes, and if the parliament votes in favor today, they could start this week.
The French have continued their airstrikes in ISIS-controlled areas, which echo the targeting done by Jordanian forces earlier this year in response to the execution of one of their pilots by ISIS. The French and Jordanians hit targets the United States had already targeted for airstrikes but were passed along to each country for retaliatory strikes.
Germany is already arming Iraqi Kurds who are fighting ISIS on the ground but they are amping up their action as well. The government is in the process of approving a plan that would send 1,200 soldiers, six reconnaissance jets and a naval ship and refueling aircraft. The plan was approved by the German cabinet Tuesday and today it is being debated in the lower house of Parliament.
How Have the Coalition Efforts Broken Down So Far?
According to the Defense Department, as of Nov. 19, there have been a total of 8,289 airstrikes by the U.S. and coalition forces against ISIS-related targets.
The United States has conducted more than three-quarters of those strikes, with 3,768 in Iraq and 2,703 in Syria, which add up to 6,471 strikes total.
The remaining 1,818 strikes were carried out by coalition forces, the Defense Department reports.
In addition to France, Jordan and the U.K., the coalition forces have included Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Warren said today that in November, 85 percent of coalition aircraft had dropped munitions, up from 60 percent in October, and much higher than numbers in July and August, where they were about 50 percent. Warren attributed the increase in airdrops to “greater intelligence.”
He also noted that “our capability to develop targets has increased as our intelligence has gotten better; we get better every day.”