ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria has “dramatically accelerated” under US President Donald Trump’s strategy, according to a senior US official last week.
“Nearly 30 percent of all the territory that has been retaken from [IS]—about 20,000 square kilometers—has actually happened in the last six months,” reported Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition against IS.
In Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul in July after a nine-month long battle against the extremist group to retake the country’s second largest city.
In Syria, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have liberated half of Raqqa, IS’ de facto capital for over three years.
“As you know, the campaign against Mosul is now finished, and in Raqqa, about 45 percent of Raqqa is now cleared,” McGurk continued.
“This is due to some key changes that were put in place very early on—three changes—initiatives from President Trump,” he added.
The envoy noted the Trump administration had delegated critical decision-making to battlefield commanders and secured more support for the anti-IS coalition.
He also said Trump implemented a tactic of “annihilation” where ground forces surround the group in its stronghold so foreign fighters cannot escape.
Despite the military success against the militant group, rights activists have criticized the new strategy, claiming it has a deadlier impact on civilian life in IS-held territory.
The Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve released the number of civilians killed in strikes by the US-led coalition over the past three years on Friday.
“It is more likely than not, at least 624 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve,” the coalition said in a news release.
Strikes include ground artillery and air attacks.
“Although the Coalition takes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties, in some incidents casualties are unavoidable,” the news release added.
Some groups, however, have put estimates in the thousands.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany