State of U.S. Campaign Against ISIS
An overview of CENTCOM's anti-ISIS campaign in 2022.
In 2022, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) conducted more than 300 operations against ISIS operations that killed 686 operatives—466 in Syria and at least 220 in Iraq, including the emir and dozens of regional leaders. In February, Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurayshi, the global ISIS caliph, set off a suicide vest as the U.S. special operations forces approached in Syria. In July, Maher al Agal, the leader of ISIS in Syria, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Another 374 members of ISIS were detained. The vast majority of operations were carried out jointly with partners—the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria and government security forces in Iraq. The United States carried out only 14 unilateral operations. “We are committed and, more importantly, our partners in Iraq and Syria are committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said Maj. Gen. Matt McFarlane, the commander of the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve.
The global coalition in Operation Inherent Resolve—which includes 77 countries and five international organizations, such as NATO, Interpol and the Arab League—was launched after ISIS swept through Iraq and Syria in 2014, carved out a third of each country, and created the Islamic State. The U.S.-led military campaign led to the collapse of the ISIS caliphate in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria in 2019. ISIS subsequently went underground to launch kidnappings, assassinations and suicide bombings in both countries.
As of early 2023, ISIS still posed a threat to U.S. interests and regional stability in the Middle East and South Asia, CENTCOM warned. It was active outside the Middle East in Afghanistan and Africa, according to CENTCOM. The jihadi extremist movement also threatened prisons that held tens of thousands of ISIS fighters, such as al Sina in Hasaka in northeast Syria and Nasiriyah Central Prison in southeast Iraq. In September, ISIS carried out a botched attack targeting al Hol, a detention center for more than 60,000 ISIS family members in northeast Syria. “While we have significantly degraded its capability, the vile ideology remains unconstrained,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the CENTCOM commander, said in a press release on December 29. He warned that the more than 25,000 children at the al Hol detention camp in northern Syria were “prime targets for ISIS radicalization.”
From Dec. 28, 2022 to Jan. 5, 2023 alone, coalition and SDF forces captured some additional 170 ISIS members, as well as weapons and supplies, during 150 raids and dozens of village clearances. The operation, which included roughly 1,000 SDF members, reflected “great dedication and commitment to defeating ISIS” in Syria, said Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor, the commander of Combined Special Operations Joint Task Force—Levant. The following are CENTCOM and Operational Inherent Resolve statements describing the U.S. fight against ISIS in 2022.
CENTCOM: The Fight Against ISIS in 2022
Throughout 2022, US Central Command and partner forces conducted hundreds of operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These operations degraded ISIS and removed a cadre of senior leaders from the battlefield, to include the emir of ISIS and dozens of regional leaders as well as hundreds of fighters. All these operations were part of the mission to degrade the terror group’s ability to direct and inspire destabilizing attacks in the region and globally, to include against the US homeland.
During calendar year 2022, CENTCOM conducted 313 total operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria as follows:
- In Syria:
- 108 partnered operations
- 14 US unilateral operations
- 215 ISIS operatives detained
- 466 ISIS operatives killed
- In Iraq:
- 191 partnered operations
- 159 ISIS operatives detained
- At least 220 ISIS operatives killed
These operations were conducted under the authority of the CENTCOM commander, who retains authority for operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and under the command of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. No US forces were injured or killed in these operations. Our local partners—the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces—have and continue to play a critical role ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS.
One year ago this month, the US security relationship with Iraq fully transitioning to a role of advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi Security Forces. Iraqi Security Forces are now leading successful unilateral offensive operations at the brigade level and making impressive strides in combined arms operations.
“Over the past year, Iraqi Security Forces demonstrated an ability to continue operations to degrade ISIS, to aggressively pursue the terror group in Iraq, and to improve security and stability within Iraq,” said General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, CENTCOM commander. “Today, they display a high level of competence, professionalism, and progress in leading tactical operations, but there is still much work to be done.”
“In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to display the will, skill, and ability to aggressively root out ISIS leaders and fighters,” Kurilla continued.
“The emerging, reliable and steady ability of our Iraqi and Syrian partner forces to conduct unilateral operations to capture and kill ISIS leaders allows us to maintain steady pressure on the ISIS network,” said Major General Matt McFarlane, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
ISIS maintains malign intentions regarding the al-Hol Displacement Camp and the more than two dozen detention centers in Syria secured by the Syrian Democratic Forces. ISIS also maintains the desire to strike outside of the region and continues to work with affiliates around the globe, most significantly in Afghanistan and Africa.
“CENTCOM sees ISIS in three categories,” said Kurilla. “First, ISIS at large. This is the current generation of ISIS leaders and operatives we are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. While we have significantly degraded its capability, the vile ideology remains unconstrained. We must continue to pressure ISIS through our partnered operations.”
“The second category is ISIS in detention. There is a literal ‘ISIS army’ in detention in Iraq and Syria. There are, today, more than 10,000 ISIS leaders and fighters in detention facilities throughout Syria and more than 20,000 ISIS leaders and fighters in detention facilities in Iraq.” The January 2022 ISIS prison breakout in Al-Hasakah, Syria is a reminder of the risk imposed by these prisons. The ensuing fight to contain the breakout resulted in more than 420 ISIS killed and more than 120 partnered forced killed.
“Finally,” Kurilla continued, “we have the potential next generation of ISIS. These are the more than 25,000 children in the al-Hol camp who are in danger. These children in the camp are prime targets for ISIS radicalization. The international community must work together to remove these children from this environment by repatriating them to their countries or communities of origin while improving conditions in the camp.”
“CENTCOM remains focused on supporting these security forces as they diligently work to improve conditions at the camp. However, the only viable long-term solution remains the successful repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the camp residents back to their country of origin.”
The mission to defeat ISIS will continue in 2023 as CENTCOM and its Coalition partners remain committed to the enduring defeat of the terror group in order to maintain and enhance global security, stability, and human rights.
“We are committed and, more importantly, our partners in Iraq and Syria are committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said McFarlane.
Operation Inherent Resolve: Anti-ISIS Operation (December 2022-January 2023)
From Dec. 28, 2022 through Jan. 5, 2023, Syrian Democratic Forces and Coalition Forces conducted a large scale operation to capture ISIS members and deter future attacks within the al-Jazeera Province, Syria.
Operation al-Jazeera Thunderbolt saw approximately 1,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, including Syrian Internal Security Forces, to search towns and immediate areas surrounding Tel Hamis, Tel Barak, and Al Hol.
During the eight-day operation, SDF conducted more than 150 raids and 40 village clearances, capturing more than 170 ISIS operatives, hundreds of weapons, and ISIS supply and logistics materials.
“Our Partner Forces in Syria have shown great dedication and commitment to defeating ISIS, and continuously conduct complex counter-ISIS operations independently, while providing security for local and national governance,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor, Combined Special Operations Joint Task Force – Levant commander.
This operation has increased security within the local communities and protects the residents from ISIS threats within al-Jazeera.
Coalition Forces are committed to advising, assisting, and enabling its partners to achieve its shared goals, promoting safety and security to the civilian population in the region.