Tuesday marks the third anniversary of the U.S.-led coalition air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, during which millions of people have been freed from ISIS control, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said today.
Briefing the Pentagon press corps, Davis said the air campaign was a response to a terrorist army that came seemingly out of nowhere and emerged as one of the most well-funded, fastest-growing and most capable terrorist networks anywhere in the world.
“On Aug. 8, 2014, two FA-18 [Super Hornet] jets launched from the USS George W. Bush in the [Persian] Gulf and dropped the first 500-pound laser-guided bombs on fighters near Irbil,” Iraq,” Davis said.
ISIS was more than just an insurgency, he added. They were capable of holding 40,000 square miles of territory and able to launch external attacks in Europe and the United States.
At one point they held an area the size of Ohio, Davis said, “and … 8 million people were being ruthlessly held captive by their rule, living in misery, many fleeing their homes, many forced into refugee status, many forced into slavery. And we saw their depravity in videos that they posted on YouTube.”
Although 5 million people are now liberated from ISIS control, ISIS still presents a great threat, he said.
“We know that they continue to murder and wound innocent people — using them as human shields and displacing families into refugees. And we know that they’re spreading to other places. We’ve seen their attacks in Europe … [and] we’ve seen their influence shift into places like Afghanistan, Mali, and now even the Philippines.”
In the three years since that first air strike, Davis noted, “we’ve worked very methodically over time with our defeat-ISIS coalition, and ISIS’ control has been reduced significantly.”