The military campaigns in Iraq and Syria have taken 45,000 enemy combatants off the battlefield and reduced the total number of Islamic State fighters to as few as 15,000, the top U.S. commander for the fight against IS said Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland said that both the quality and number of IS fighters is declining, and he warned that it is difficult to determine accurate numbers. Earlier estimates put the number of Islamic State fighters between 19,000 and 25,000, but U.S. officials say the range is now roughly 15,000 to 20,000.
Saying that “the enemy is in retreat on all fronts,” MacFarland said U.S.-backed local forces in both Iraq and Syria have been gaining ground. And he said the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has decreased and that many people pressed into fighting for the Islamic State group are unwilling or untrained.
“All I know is when we go someplace, it’s easier to go there now than it was a year ago. And the enemy doesn’t put up as much of a fight,” he told Pentagon reporters in a video conference.
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