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SOCOM Chief: US Has Killed '60,000 to 70,000' ISIS Fighters So Far
During a discussion at the Aspen Security Forum on July 21, Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, cited estimates saying that the U.S.-led fight against ISIS had killed 60,000 to 70,000 ISIS militants.
It is not the first time U.S. military officials have given estimates for ISIS body counts — Thomas himself cited a similar number in February — but those estimates have been made despite doubts among military leaders and government policymakers about their accuracy and usefulness.
When asked about the whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Thomas downplayed the ISIS leader's influence and said that while Baghdadi's fate is currently unknown, "we will get him eventually."
To underline his point, Thomas elaborated on the damage done to ISIS' personnel network.
"I mean, everyone who worked for him initially is dead or gone. Everybody who stepped to the plate the next time, dead or gone," Thomas said. "Down through a network where we have killed in conservative estimates 60,000 to 70,000 of his followers, his army. They declared an army, they put it on the battlefield, and we went to war with it."Those comments come several months after Thomas claimed that more than 60,000 ISIS fighters had been killed since the campaign against the group started in summer 2014.
Those comments come several months after Thomas claimed that more than 60,000 ISIS fighters had been killed since the campaign against the group started in summer 2014.
"I'm not into morbid body counts, but that matters," he said in February, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association's Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference. "So when folks ask, do you need more aggressive [measures], do you need better [rules of engagement], I would tell you that we're being pretty darn prolific."
Body counts — which earned scorn during the Vietnam War — are considered a dubious metric by which to measure the success of a military campaign, particularly ones against groups like ISIS. It is typically hard to estimate how many fighters such groups have, and it is not always clear how many have been killed during military engagements.
In 2014, an observer group estimated the terror group had 100,000 fighters. The Pentagon said in summer 2016 that it had just 15,000 to 20,000 fighters left in Iraq and Syria.
The February number given by Thomas was not much higher than the 50,000 ISIS-dead estimate made by U.S. officials in December. But the December number given by US officials was twice as high as the figure cited by UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon that same month.
And the figure cited by Thomas on Friday was only slightly higher than what he said in February, despite the increased intensity of anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria in the intervening months.
Air operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria increased significantly after Trump took office in January, with military leaders emphasizing an "annihilation campaign" aimed at eliminating ISIS fighters.
But those air operations appear to have caused a considerable increase in civilian deaths.
The U.S. government reversed its policy on body counts several times during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and numbers given by the government have been undercut or criticized by civilian and military personnel alike.
"My policy has always been, don't release that kind of thing," Chuck Hagel, who served as secretary of defense from 2013 to 2015, told CNN in December 2016. "Body counts, I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?"
More from Business Insider:
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- A government agency tricked the Defense Department into handing over $1.2 million in weapons to fake police
- The Pentagon has contaminated nearly 40 million U.S. acres by burning old munitions
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After 70 years, service members are finally filing medical malpractice claims against the US military
Jessica Purcell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was pregnant with her first child when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her left underarm.
Health-care providers at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic told her it was likely an infection or something related to pregnancy hormones. The following year they determined the issue had resolved itself.
It hadn't. A doctor off base found a large mass in her underarm and gave her a shocking diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.
Purcell was pregnant again. Her daughter had just turned 1. She was 35. And she had no right to sue for malpractice.
A 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres doctrine prohibits military members like Purcell from filing a lawsuit against the federal government for any injuries suffered while on active duty. That includes injury in combat, but also rape and medical malpractice, such as missing a cancer diagnosis.
Thanks in part to Tampa lawyer Natalie Khawam, a provision in this year's national defense budget allows those in active duty to file medical malpractice claims against the government for the first time since the Feres case.
With the Department of Defense overseeing the new claims process, the question now is how fairly and timely complaints will be judged. And whether, in the long run, this new move will help growing efforts to overturn the ruling and allow active duty members to sue like everyone else.