Despite widening tensions in the Middle East, the United States military and its partner forces continue to hunt the remains of ISIS. In the first three months of the year they conducted 94 operations against the terror group in Syria and Iraq. 

In its latest update on Operation Inherent Resolve, the ongoing campaign against ISIS, U.S. Central Command said that as of the end of March, the U.S. and partner groups killed 18 ISIS operatives and detained 63 more. 66 of those 94 missions were in Iraq, killing 11 ISIS members, while the rest took place in Syria. CENTCOM says that approximately 2,500 ISIS fighters remain in the two countries, despite the fall of the group’s last refuge in Baghouz, Syria in 2019.  

The anti-ISIS missions are being carried out by American troops as well as Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. 

“We are committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS because of the threat they pose both regionally and globally. We continue to focus our efforts on specifically targeting those members of ISIS who are seeking to conduct external operations outside of Iraq and Syria and those ISIS members attempting to break out ISIS members in detention in an attempt to reconstitute their forces,” CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla said in a statement. “Defeating this threat requires continued pressure from our partners and the coalition.”

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The update from CENTCOM on Operation Inherent Resolve’s progress comes two months after a report from the Pentagon Inspector General said that wider tensions in the Middle East as a result of the ongoing Israel-Gaza war was impacting counter-ISIS efforts. 

Since the outbreak of the war in October 2023, the conflict has led to an escalation of regional tensions and skirmishes. Houthi forces in Yemen have launched dozens of drones and rockets toward commercial and military ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, while militias and armed groups have fired at American military installations in Syria, Iraq and Jordan. Since October, more than 170 attacks have occurred, wounding dozens. Three service members were killed at a base in Jordan. The U.S. has in turn been carrying out targeted strikes at groups it says are responsible for the attacks. The security concerns have prompted a shift in resources and focus by the American military, which the IG report said “have resulted in a more challenging operational environment for the [Operation Inherent Resolve] campaign.”

Last year, between January and October, members of Operation Inherent Resolve launched more than 380 missions against ISIS operatives in Iraq and Syria. CENTCOM’s update on the operation and ISIS’s numbers did not give any indication if the group is replenishing its forces or by how many fighters. 

The United States currently has roughly 2,500 troops stationed in Iraq and another approximately 900 in Syria. 

Although ISIS’s main area of activity is Iraq and Syria, the group and its affiliates remain active around the globe. American and partner forces are fighting the group in both Western Africa and Somalia. ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan, ISIS Khorasan Province, is staging terror attacks against the Taliban government there since the Afghan group took over the country. Last month ISIS-K members conducted a major attack inside a concert venue in Moscow. 

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