Middle East Aflame
Putting a Brave Face on ISIS Advances

Like many troubled conflicts that have come before it, the war against ISIS has entered that phase where leaders trot out body counts as evidence of success. More than 10,000 members of ISIS have been killed since the start of efforts to eradicate it, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today after a meeting of anti-ISIS coalition partners in Paris.

“We have seen a lot of losses within Daesh since the start of this campaign, more than 10,000,” Blinken said on France Inter radio, using a mildly derogatory term for Islamic State. “It will end up having an impact.”

On Tuesday, Western and Arab states carrying out air strikes on Islamic State fighters backed Iraq’s plan for retaking territory after being accused by the Iraqi premier of not doing enough to help Baghdad push back the insurgents.

“At the start of this campaign (we) said it would take time,” he said. “We have conceived a three-year plan and we’re nine months into it.”

Blinken also said that ISIS controlled 25% less territory than it did late last year.

Body counts and percentages aside, ISIS is making fresh strides in Syria as it advances on the city of Aleppo, the country’s largest city. Some opposition fighters (and notably the U.S. Embassy in Syria’s Twitter account) were alleging that this latest push is being aided by government forces. In the northeast, however, Assad’s troops are said to be in pitched battles with ISIS in and around the Kurdish-majority Hasaka province.

The meeting in Paris, which adjourned without any notable adjustments to strategy being announced, indicates there’s no consensus as to what to do next. What exactly will have to happen for a serious re-evaluation?

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