In his final State of the Union address, President Obama declared: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance.” At the highest level of our government, even within the president’s own party, there are strong differences of opinions as to whether that statement is true.
Recently, Secretary of State John Kerry said that American has “decisively halted” the progress of ISIL, or ISIS, the so-called Islamic State terrorist group. Other administration sources claim our military forces have killed 6,000 ISIS fighters and half the ISIS leadership in air attacks. The Department of State bases its death toll numbers on numbers kept by Centcom, the United States Central Command.
Secretary of Defense Chuch Hagel sees things differently. He believes those figures are wrong. “We do know that thousands of ISIS fighters have been killed, and we do know that some of ISIS’s leadership have been killed,” Hagel said, adding that he has not seen any verified numbers.
Hagel also said he does not think the numbers of people killed should be “the measurement” by which this war should be judged. He noted the Vietnam War produced big body counts every day.
In its independent evaluation of the president’s assertion, U.S.News and World Report gives the statement a grade of D.
The magazine suggests it might be fairer to classify the statement as “incomplete,” because the U.S.-led coalition has only been operating in Iraq and Syria for six months. Certainly, they say, ISIS is not on the run.
According to the Institute for the Study of war, Kurdish Peshmerga military forces have been able to move ISIS out of some positions in the Sinjar region of Nineveh province in Iraq. However, ISIS withdrew into the adjacent Hasaka province in Syria, where they now maintain complete control. They are using this zone to rearm and resupply troops, and they are now stronger than ever, the Institute says.
ISIS has not lost any key territory in Syria, and now controls one-third of the country, according to The Daily Beast , which generally leans left in its views- this despite nearly 800 airstrikes thus far.
On a more positive note, the Pentagon says its primary efforts have been on keeping ISIS from taking over the northern Syrian city of Kobani, and in that American forces have been successful. Furthermore, the Pentagon believes we have slowed the group’s momentum.
The Daily Beast published the map above, which was developed by the Coalition for a Democratic Syria (CDS), a Syrian-American opposition umbrella group. Its spokesman, Mouaz Moustafa said, “Assessing the map, ISIS has almost doubled its territorial control in Syria. But more importantly, the number of people who now live under ISIS control has also increased substantially.”