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IS Continues Attacks Despite 6,000 Airstrikes

  • Zlatica Hoke

One year ago (on August 8, 2014), the United States started to bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq. Since then, the U.S.-led coalition has hit the militant group in Iraq and Syria with more than 6,000 air strikes.

Even though the group has lost some territory, it has shown tough resilience and continues to pose a threat to vulnerable communities in the region, most recently in Turkish areas close to the Syrian border.

The United States on Friday launched new airstrikes against Islamic State militants near Irbil in northern Iraq.

U.S. defense officials say fighter jets dropped bombs on the militants close to a station that houses U.S. military trainers. Local Kurdish forces welcome any help they can get to hold off Islamic State advances, but they say they need arms.

"I would like to tell the whole world that we are not doing this battle only for Kurdistan. We are doing this battle for all the international community and the whole world," said General Mansour Barzani with Kurdish Special Forces.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Friday that Islamic State has lost about 30 percent of the territory it held a year ago in Iraq, and a significant portion of the area it controlled in Syria.

"Coalition forces have repeatedly struck ISIL leadership targets to an extent that ISIL leadership targets no longer have a safe haven. And the United States and our coalition partners are taking steps to interrupt ISIL's finances and make it more difficult for the group to attract new foreign fighters," he said.

Turkey recently joined military action against Islamic State but Turkish anti-terror operations seem aimed more against the Kurdish PKK rebels. Some people in Turkish border villages are not reassured.

"We fear that the government is giving up on its people here, that they leave the people on their own like in Syria," said Mehmet Kahraman, from Durakbasi village, which is near Syria.

Air strikes can help deter militant advances, but only temporarily, says a London-based defense analyst.

"There's going to be, I suspect, crossed fingers, that the airstrikes - with some special forces on the ground - will put a break on the expansion of ISIS, and possibly even see them reduce their area as they suffer," said Francis Tusa, editor with Defence Analysis.

In the long run, though, he said local militias need significant military help on the ground to defeat Islamic State.

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