The deaths of three more top ISIL leaders by a coalition airstrike was recently announced by the Pentagon. Two of leaders -- Salah Gourmat, and Sammy Djedou – - were involved in facilitating the Nov. 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The third, Walid Hamman, was a suicide attack planner convicted in absentia in Belgium for a terror plot disrupted in 2015.
Brett McGurk, Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, said the three join a growing list of key ISIL leaders who have been targeted and eliminated.
At a press briefing, Mr. McGurk spoke of other successes in the fight: the significant shrinking of the territory of the so-called caliphate; the dwindling number of battle-ready ISIL fighters inside Iraq and Syria; the ongoing destruction of ISIL’s economic base; the substantial decrease in ISIL messaging on the internet; the degrading of ISIL’s affiliates across the board, including in Libya, the Lake Chad Basin, and Afghanistan.
Mr. McGurk also pointed to the enormous pressure being put on ISIL by the campaigns to take back its two so-called capitals of Mosul and Raqqa.
The successes have not come without cost to the Coalition. Special Envoy McGurk noted the deaths of five U.S. military personnel who have been killed in the fight so far. He spoke of the casualties suffered by Iraqi security forces who are “fighting heroically” to retake their territory. He also pointed to the more than 1000 casualties suffered by Syrian Democratic Forces in the crucial battle to retake Manbij in Syria.
“It is significant,” Mr. McGurk said, “that all ground that we have taken as a coalition, working with locals…none of it, ISIL has been able to retake. And that is because before we do any of this, we [make] a tremendous effort…to prepare the ground politically, economically, to get the stabilization resources in place to help make sure people can return to their homes, and make sure that the defeat of ISIL is a lasting one.”
Special Envoy McGurk declared that ISIL remains a threat -- both to the Syrians and Iraqis under its control, and because of the group’s recruitment of “deranged individuals from all over the world to act in their name.” But overall the campaign against ISIL, he said, “has momentum. We’re always looking for ways to accelerate it…and we will not stop until we destroy this enemy.”