05:02 GMT +3 hours29 May 2016
US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles are designed to conduct airstrikes in Syria and Iraq

Bad Math: Pentagon’s Numbers on Daesh 'Success' Don’t Add Up

© REUTERS/ Senior Airman Matthew Bruch
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While the US has touted its bombing campaign against terrorists in Syria, a closer look at the numbers reveals that for every militant killed, another is recruited.

Since the US began military operations in Syria, the Pentagon’s strategy has been to kill every individual associated with the Daesh terrorist group, also known as IS/the Islamic State.

"If you’re part of ISIL, we will kill you. That’s our rule," Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters earlier this week.

Most importantly for the Obama administration, US strategists have assured the public that their goals can be accomplished with nothing more than an air campaign. This allows the president to continue to push for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rather than accept ground coordination from the legitimate Syrian army, and keep his pledge of keeping US boots off the ground in the Middle East.

President Obama recently announced the deployment of US Special Forces into Syria, but prefers not to officially describe that action as "combat."

But despite the Pentagon’s claims of success, a cursory look at the numbers proves that US airstrikes have had little – if any – effect.

At the start of the campaign in 2014, the CIA provided an estimate for the size of Daesh’s fighting force.

"[The terror group] can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria," a CIA spokesman told CNN.

In November, an anonymous official speaking to USA Today claimed that the air campaign had killed approximately 23,000 Daesh fighters. According to a press briefing given by Army Col. Steve Warren on Wednesday, another 2,500 militants were killed in December.

So, good news! According to these numbers, the US bombing campaign has almost single-handedly eliminated Daesh, leaving only a few thousand terrorists scattered across the desert. With any luck, Daesh will be little more than a distant memory come Valentine’s Day.

But during the same briefing, Warren also gave reporters an updated assessment of the terror group. How many militants does the Pentagon believe to be currently fighting with Daesh? Around 30,000.

As Micah Zenko points out, writing for Defense One, this mathematical inconsistency can be partially explained by the fact that Western airstrikes can ultimately be turned into recruiting tools for terrorist groups – a fact overlooked by the Pentagon.

"I often ask US government officials and mid-level staffers, 'what are you doing to prevent a neutral person from becoming a terrorist?' They always claim this is not their responsibility," he writes.

"DOS and DHS officials then refer generally to 'countering violent extremism' policies, while acknowledging that US government efforts on this front have been wholly ineffective."

Whatever the cause, Daesh appears just as strong, 22,110 bombs later.

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Barack Obama, boots on the ground, airstrike, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, Daesh, Pentagon, Steve Warren, Iraq, Syria, United States
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  • michael
    and this article is the last of a long line of similar comments which people have been raising since 1945, maybe even back to the first world war about the nature of bombing - its effectiveness, the ethics and so on.
  • slimyfox
    I remember reading historical books about WW2 Battle for Britain where former RAF pilots described their battle for the skies above Britain. At that point in time amongst very experienced British pilots were just a few aces who had between 10 and 15 confirmed kills. British RAF did recognise as a kill only these German airplanes which were filmed burning and crashing or where pilots bailed out or confirmation come from the ground based British defence forces. Then come glorious moment when USA joined the WW2 and sent own pilots and warplanes to Britain to help RAF.

    Now it get interesting, as Britain had a radars and they were able to establish quite correct number of enemy warplanes approaching. When Americans scrambled in the air to fight Germans they always joined British squadrons.

    Upon return to base British pilots claimed exact number of shot down enemy airplanes. Usually it was about 10% of total number or airplanes that were shot down, and as said British had to provide undeniable proof that enemy airplane has been shot down. and that was the result always between 7 - 15% of all attakers shot down. However after USA pilots returned to their HQ every pilot had a claim of several kills. I remember British ridiculing USA reports which stated a number of shot German plaines in every battle several times greater than was total number of attacking airplanes. USA command did not even bother to sum all numbers as after couple of weeks according to their reports Germany had 3x less airplanes than they were in reality. For example in one attack Germans brought about 350 airplanes and USA report showed more that 1500 destroyed enemies.#

    It is obvious that time passes by but habits are cast in iron. Soon according to USA in Syria and Iraq there will be no more ISIL as they will kill them all. I am afraid but I have strong feeling that they are telling the truth about number of deaths only with small and negligible difference, killed are not ISIL but innocent civilians as USA is calling them - COLLATERAL damage.
  • Mother Gorilla
    First question: How many Daesh were killed by the Russian bombings?
    Second, it seems that a maximum of 2700-3000 Germans have gone to fight for ISIS. That is extrapolated on the basis of the numbers for Berlin where the ISIS fighters are better known. It is also reported that the numbers of recruits from Germany have dwindled rather than increased as a result of the adversity the IS encountered in Syria and Iraq.
    So how to explain the higher number unless the US have supplied them from behind?
  • Dumb people.
  • Bob Hoferer
    If these so-called 'experts' have all this knowledge, then why do they need to always be "anonymous"? How can anyone believe any of these "anonymous" officials...is it possibly because they are NOT REAL officials after all? I'm sure this is for 'propaganda' purposes only!
  • Bob Hofererin reply toMother Gorilla(Show commentHide comment)
    Miss Germany, WOW!!! You should NOT be asking such an embarrassing question of the US!
  • Bob Hoferer
    Like I have stated many times prior...'ISIL', 'DAESH' or what ever they are called are THE 'Bama's "private" army. He does NOT want them to just disappear. He provides them with MONEY and their WEAPONS. All the 'services' know this, and that is why they will NOT do a 'number' on them. But Russia/Putin has 'blown' all of the US's plans up.
  • tony pin reply toslimyfox(Show commentHide comment)
    slimyfox, Also lets not forget the bombing campaign where the Lancaster dropped 70/ 80% of all bombs on Germany, yet it was the USAF that defeated Germany.
  • Mother Gorillain reply toBob Hoferer(Show commentHide comment)
    Bob Hoferer, o.k. found the answer, the Russian strikes killed 2000-3000 fighters between September and December 2015, the US claim to have killed over 25000, but in reality it looks more like 4000-5000 in the same period. That would have scared off some potential recruits, unless again, the ranks and supplies were replenished by the West.
  • surferket
    How did US killed 23,000 ISIL fighter when their planes were bombing camels and desert stone huts?
  • FlorianGeyerin reply tosurferket(Show commentHide comment)
    Hollywood History again. The Yanks always win,just as Obama once said that his uncle was one of the soldiers that liberated Auschwitz. Funnily enough it was the Soviet Army of Russia that liberated Auschwitz and Obama's uncle was certainly not Russian or from any Russian satellite countries.
    In essence, American Hollywood History is mostly all bullshit.
  • Bob Hofererin reply toMother Gorilla(Show commentHide comment)
    Miss Germany, You are 'good'. Thanks for the figures. I really like your comments. You do a lot of research I am sure. Again, thanks. In my first reply to you I was actually being 'sarcastic' about questioning the US.
  • Bob Hoferer
    In reply to Patrick DeBoard...Hey, I have to agree with you and your comment.
  • ivanwa88
    Your missing the point folks, that is; there stated number in the first place is about 80% incorrect to start with! my estimation of peak numbers in Syria was between 80.000 to120.000
    to give you an example Alloush had under his command nearly 15000 (as reported)to subdue Damascus, on top of that Syrian army has active campaigns going on in 9 provinces where heavy fighting is a daily occurrence plus in the claimed IS/Daesh capital there is a concentration of over 15000 fighters now 15+15+9*4= 66! that's just Syria. Now that adds up on a number of levels. 1. After Russia started actively bombing duped foreign fighters started leaving by the thousands as reported est 20000. Every day in 9 provinces 20-30 are killed in each province = 270 a day = 8800 per month = 105600 in a year. That doesn't include the wounded which is usually 3* the total number of killed!!? even if you halve those numbers it makes a mockery of the figures issued by Pentagon. Which is unusual as US is infamous for doing exactly the opposite in wars they are involved in. I almost get the impression its wanting to encourage further recruitment and or to appease its coalition of terror.
  • Hermes
    ...........As Micah Zenko points out, writing for Defense One, this mathematical inconsistency can be partially explained by the fact that Western airstrikes can ultimately be turned into recruiting tools for terrorist groups – a fact overlooked by the Pentagon..............

    Wrong. This effect has already been acknowledged by a pentagon top dog as a side effect of the bombing. I read it on RT. In other words, they know their actions have that effect and that is what they count on. It's a game of lies and deception but to what end?
  • cuttingedge.blacksmith
    Thank Goodness they are not killing the "Wrong Terrorists".
    (though I suppose that Doctors without Borders doesn't count)
  • ivanwa88
    The fact is the joint Russian/Syrian/Hezbollah/Iran offensive is doing extremely well especially as it only got under way with a vengeance as of September 30th 2015. I gather US figures only include Daesh/ISIL and not Al Nusra Al This and Al That. As at least 50% of Daesh fled to Europe after Russians starting bombing its the Tafikira etc taking the brunt of the casualties. The figure America claims adds up quite well to what Would be the casualties inflicted by Russian air campaign!!? I thought the article missed so many vital aspects that it was at best a 3rd rate article bordering on thrash.
  • Hermesin reply toivanwa88(Show commentHide comment)

    .........I almost get the impression its wanting to encourage further recruitment and or to appease its coalition of terror............

    If I understand their strategy and their goal they need to do both.
    They need to be seen to be an 'enemy' of ISIS and they need to boost recruitment at the same time because I think the map for the islamic state has been drawn up by the pentagon some decades ago with the express purpose of creating a nuclear psycho proxy state on Russias southern border with which they of course have absolutely nothing to do with. They set up Pakistan as a factory for nuclear arms but you will NEVER hear the UN complain about that. Pakistan has a contract to supply nuclear arms to Saoudi arabia but I think we will see wider proliferation of nukes in the near future. Russia has a problem and as often the case with problems for which there seems no solution it has become a taboo to talk about it. Of course it is all water under the bridge but Russia should never have allowed US and other NATO countries to supply Pakistan with nuclear technology but now their hands are tied I think.
  • ivanwa88
    Hermes, the point you made on nuclear production facilities in Pakistan for supply to Saudi Arabia are issues that undoubtedly will come into strong focus in 2016. Firstly events need to show Saudis desperation and complicity in terrorism. Then any nuclear issues of course become the greatest of concern to the American people! once that takes place it becomes the absolute priority of the US Government. Then we will see changes necessary to safeguard the planet and perhaps the first real initiatives taken to total nuclear disarmament. Once US is no longer in charge and has become part of a responsible positive multi-polar world power nuclear weapons have no further attraction to the US thus opening the door wide to a new era in world history.
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