U.S.-Led Coalition Airstrikes Against ISIS Increase By 50 Percent

Operation Inherent Resolve airstrike against ISIS / YouTube screenshot

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The U.S.-led coalition has launched significantly more airstrikes against the Islamic State this year, increasing the number of bombs dropped on the terrorist group by about 50 percent.

A total of 14,192 rockets, bombs, and other munitions were deployed against ISIS in the first four months of 2017, compared to 9,442 during the same period in 2016, USA Today reported Tuesday, citing the latest statistics from U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

The uptick in strikes "can be attributed to the increased pace of operations in both Iraq and Syria as we target and destroy ISIS," Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for Air Forces Central Command, said Tuesday.

President Trump has given battlefield commanders greater authority to approve airstrikes and raids, quickening response times to react to events on the ground.

The Obama administration, in contrast, reserved many decisions about airstrikes for the highest levels of the military and had stricter rules of engagement.

"He [Trump] delegated authority to the right level to aggressively and in a timely manner move against enemy vulnerabilities," Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week.

With more flexibility to launch strikes, Air Force officials insist they have not loosened their strict standards for using American air power.

"The protection of civilians remains a cornerstone of the campaign," Pickart said, adding that 90 percent of the munitions used have been precision guided.

Trump has also ordered the Pentagon to focus on surrounding ISIS forces to block them from fleeing at the last minute. ISIS fighters in the past have been able to escape at the last minute as U.S.-backed ground forces closed in on them.

"We carry out the annihilation campaign so we don't simply transplant this problem from one location to another," Mattis said.

U.S.-backed forces are engaged on the ground in Mosul, the terror group's last major stronghold in Iraq, fighting to liberate the western part of the city. The Pentagon is also planning to retake Raqqa, the group's de facto capital in Syria.

The U.S. has about 1,000 troops in Syria and about 5,000 in Iraq, including hundreds of advisers on the ground.

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, especially crime, law, drugs, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at lehman@freebeacon.com.

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