Three top ISIS leaders were killed in recent weeks by U.S. airstrikes, the Pentagon confirmed on Thursday. One of the leaders was the terrorist group’s right-hand man.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said, “I can confirm since mid-November, targeted coalition airstrikes successfully killed multiple senior and mid-level leaders within the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).” ISIL is another name for ISIS.
U.S. officials said one of the airstrikes killed Haji Mutazz. Mutazz is the “deputy wali,” which is essentially second in command to the leader of ISIS (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi).
Strikes in late November and early December also killed Radwin Talib and Abd al Basit. Talib was the governor in Mosul and a mid-level operator. Abd al Basit was the head of ISIS military operations in Iraq.
In November and December, seven important ISIS figures were killed.
The targeted airstrikes are setting conditions for an eventual Iraqi military offensive in Mosul, which could occur in late 2015. The U.S. and its partners have sent 1,361 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
U.S.-led airstrikes began in August when ISIS members threatened to overrun Erbil in northern Iraq. The airstrikes expanded to Syria in September.
Lt. Gen. James Terry said these efforts ensured the terrorist group “has been halted and transitioned to the defense and is attempting to hold what they currently have.”
Though defense officials believe killing top ISIS leaders has weakened the group, officials and military analysts warn ISIS is able to replace commanders.
Besides killing ISIS leadership, a defense official said, “We’ve bombed their oil production, we struck the Humvees and MRAPs they stole from us.”
Ahmed Ali, an analyst at the Institute of the Study of War, agrees these achievements are notable. However, he believes “hitting Baghadi will represent a make-or-break moment for ISIS.”
The U.S. is increasing airstrikes around Sinjar, Iraq to support Iraqi Kurdish forces. The coalition is attempting to make way between Dahuk, in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, and Mosul, the largest city controlled by ISIS. Officials intend for airstrikes in the region to isolate Mosul and cut off supplies for ISIS.
Gen. Terry said it will take at least three years for ISIS to reestablish its capabilities to what they were before the U.S.-led attacks. Though the airstrikes have made significant progress as top ISIS leaders have been killed, Terry insists defense officials will remain persistent.[Photo Credit: James McCauley]