By Candace Kellner
U.S. diplomatic officials announced last Thursday, Jan. 22 that the coalition fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has killed thousands of fighters, including members of their top command. This is the first time the number of fighter casualties has been publicized.
According to CNN, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Stuart Jones, told Al Arabiya television that an estimated 6,000 fighters have been killed. Jones optimistically stated that the military effort has proved to be a “devastating” impact on ISIS.
However, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would not confirm the estimate, which was calculated by the U.S. Central Command. Hagel told CNN that he is skeptical about whether the body count is a sign of progress, saying, “It’s a measure, but I don’t think it’s the measure.” Hagel referred to his service in Vietnam, saying, “I was in a war where we did body counts, and we lost that one.”
The Pentagon has avoided discussing the subject, other than to estimate that thousands of fighters may have been killed. Rear Admiral John Kirby told CNN reporters that the U.S. is not keeping any “body count” and to state that such a count exists would be wrong. Kirby insists on calling the estimate a “tally” and said that the notion of a body count mirrors Vietnam War-era statistics. Kirby stated that the ISIS tally was not intended to indicate any metric of success against the enemy.
All of this speculation comes after Iraqi criticism of the U.S. for not providing them with enough aid to combat ISIS. The U.S. has held that they have provided airstrikes that are aimed at degrading ISIS as a threat, but they would not take on the terrorist organization by themselves. Kerry told CNN reporters that the airstrikes have “halted” the ISIS force and reclaimed “more than 700 kilometers” of ISIS-controlled land in Iraq.
A U.S. military official also told CNN that the airstrikes around Mosul, Iraq have been amplified in support of the Peshmerga fighters who are hitting ISIS on a major offensive in the area. The military official addressed the estimate issue by stressing that the U.S. cannot confirm the exact number. The U.S. has based its calculations on pilot reports and other intelligence involved in the airstrikes.