President Barack Obama said earlier this week that the U.S.-led military coalition is hitting Islamic State targets "harder than ever," but critics say not enough of those hits are striking training camps that are churning out 1,000 militant fighters every month.
"These camps give them a continuous, fresh flow of fighters," an unnamed critic from Obama's administration told The Washington Free Beacon
. "Little is being done to destroy them."
According to officials, a total of 20 camps in Syria and Iraq have been hit since May. Critics, though, point out that ISIS has been running more than 60 camps in Syria and Iraq since 2014, and they worry that the camps are not being hit enough.
The military has been kept from attacking the camps, the officials complained, because many are located near residential and population centers, and strikes could produce casualties among civilians as well.
Obama this week said ISIS' leaders are being targeted, and the extremist group has lost nearly half the territory it had in Iraq, reports CNN
Between the U.S. and coalition partners, nearly 9,000 airstrikes have been launched since last year, Obama said, claiming that more bombs were dropped in November than at any other time, destroying ISIS "fighting positions, bunkers, and staging areas; their heavy weapons, bomb-making factories, compounds and training camps. In many places, ISIL has lost its freedom of maneuver because they know if they mass their forces, we will wipe them out."
However, not all the training camps are in Syria and Iraq, as others have been reported in both Libya and Afghanistan.
In June, Long War Journal
reported the number of both ISIS and al Qaeda's training camps are rising. Bill Roggio, the website's editor, said the growth speaks "to the strength of the Islamic State and its ability to continue to gather and instruct recruits despite the U.S. and allies' air campaign."
"It is unclear if U.S. airstrikes have significantly set back the Islamic State’s training program," Roggio told the Free Beacon. "We may not be hitting the training facilities quick enough to make a difference."
The attacks between May 20 and Dec. 8 included several strikes near the ISIS headquarters of Raqqah and against raining camps and staging areas, and a military statement on Dec. 17 said a training camp near the headquarters. Other attacks have come near Kobani, Mosul, Albu Hayat, and Abu Kamal.
A military statement issued Dec. 17 said a training camp was bombed near Raqqah, and Army Col. Steven Warren, a coalition spokesman, told The Free Beacon that "we have struck training camps and will continue to do so."
Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner also complained during a House Armed Services Committee on Nov. 18 that "there's great frustration in the American public as we hear that there are attacks now happening to ISIS, and ISIL, training camps that we've known where they are but no one's attacking them. Logistics, supply lines, sales of oil, other operations of ISIS and ISIL are going without challenge, so clearly the strategy that we're doing is not working and is threatening our national security.”
But despite the complaints, American-led airstrikes on Thursday took out at least 180 ISIS fighters, after Kurdish forces pushed back an attack by the militants, reports The Washington Post
There were at least four coordinated attacks by at least 300 militants, kicking off the strongest fighting northern Iraq has seen to date this year.
Brig. Gen. Mark Odom, the top U.S. military official in northern Iraq, said the coalition launched a 17-hour aerial attack in response to the offensive ISIS had opened against Iraqi Kurdish security forces, referred to as peshmerga.
The militants had a wide variety of weapons, including car bombs and armored bulldozers, and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who met with Iraqi Kurdish leaders on Thursday, said the fighting reflected how effective the peshmerga forces are when being backed by the U.S. coalition.
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