Washington, Aug. 11 : A top US commander has claimed the military campaigns in Iraq and Syria have eliminated around 45,000 enemy combatants and reduced the total number of Islamic State fighters to as few as 15,000.
Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland said in a Pentagon media briefing that both the quality and number of ISI fighters was declining, while warning that it was difficult to determine accurate numbers.
As per earlier estimates the number of Islamic State fighters stands between 19,000 and 25,000 but US officials say the range is now roughly 15,000 to 20,000, reports the Guardian.
"The enemy is in retreat on all fronts," he said. He added that the US-backed local forces in both Iraq and Syria had been gaining ground and that the flow of foreign fighters there had decreased, adding that many of the ISIS fighters are now unwilling or untrained.
He claimed the Syrian Democratic Forces group was within weeks of defeating ISIS in Manbij, Syria. "I don't give it very long before that operation is concluded, and that will deal a decisive blow to the enemy," he said, while adding there were still a lot of enemy foreign fighters putting up resistance.
MacFarland said that Iraqi forces were in a position to begin to retake the northern city of Mosul but the US still had to work towards improving the Qayyarah air base in northern Iraq before it could be used as a hub for the battle to retake Mosul.
He however warned that "military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of Daesh.".