As reported below, a few days after the Paris terror attacks, the United States started hitting ISIL “where it hurts”: targets associated with the Islamic State’s black market oil business worth annually about $500 million a year, or about half of the terror group’s fraudulent annual revenues.
Strikes against such targets — oil tankers, pump stations, oil processing and transportation facilities, etc. — have continued.
For example, air strikes in Syria and Iraq during the past two or three days included:
— Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike destroyed 16 ISIL skid mounted gas and oil separation plants.
— Near Abu Kamal, one strike destroyed an ISIL pipeline fitter truck.
— Near Qayyarah, one strike struck an ISIL petroleum refinery.
But even before the Paris attacks, the U.S. and its allies had started focusing on cutting off ISIL’s cash flow. Cash as in money stolen from Iraqi banks; cash obtained from illegal “taxation,” so-called “donations,” extortion and from kidnapping ransom; cash ill-gotten from the sale of other stolen assets: vital cash needed to pay off its troops and workers.
In its continuing effort to “hit ISIL where it hurts,” a new, unusual target should appear in tomorrow’s list of airstrikes targets.
CNN reports that on Sunday the U.S. dropped two 2,000-pound bombs in central Mosul, Iraq, “destroying a building containing huge amounts of cash ISIS was using to pay its troops and for ongoing operations.”
According to CNN, U.S. officials could not say “how much money was there or in what currency, but one described it as ‘millions.’”
As is the case with oil facilities and means of transportation, the U.S. plans to continue to strike more financial targets “like this one to take away ISIS’s ability to function as a state-like entity,” says CNN.
Read more here.
As the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group completes its transit through the Suez Canal on its way to the U.S. 5th Fleet’s area of operations (encompassing about 2.5 million square miles of the Middle East’s maritime reaches including the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea) the air strikes by the U.S. and its allies are markedly shifting from fixed sites to “dynamic” ones such as oil-smuggling tanker trucks.
USA Today reports that about 400 tankers have been destroyed: “The peak in attacking dynamic targets occurred from Nov. 10 to 23 when pilots hit 339 fleeting targets compared with 57 that had been planned before they launched their raids, the figures show. The mounting intensity of the fight comes as President Obama prepares to visit the Pentagon [today]* with his national security team for an update on progress on ISIL.”
*Watch the President’s short statement below, at -(minus) 09 minutes
As reported here, until a few days after the Paris terror attacks, the United States had refrained from striking the fleet of ISIL tanker trucks because of concerns about causing civilian casualties.
But the following Monday, A-10s and AC-130s destroyed more than a third of almost 300 oil tanker trucks waiting to receive oil.
Now, regular and “about-time” additions to the list of ISIL terrorists air strike targets hit in Syria are targets associated with the Islamic State’s oil business — worth annually about $500 million –which accounts for about half of the terror group’s fraudulent annual revenues.
British and Russian aircraft have also started to strike ISIL’s oil infrastructure.
Typically the coalition’s daily targets lists for Syria now have entries such as:
— Near Abu Kamal, a strike struck an ISIL oil well head.
— Near Dayr Az Zawr, one strike struck an ISIL crude oil collection point.
— Near Dayr Ar Zawr, four strikes struck four ISIL oil wellheads.
— Near Dayr Az Zawr, five strikes struck two ISIL crude oil collection points, an ISIL maintenance and storage yard, an ISIL main petroleum station, and an ISIL cash distribution site.
One airstrike near Shadadi successfully struck ISIL oil collection equipment consisting of several “POL tanks” (petroleum, oil and lubricants) and a pump station, which represents part of the terrorist group’s oil producing, processing and transportation infrastructure. This strike was intended to destroy a portion of ISIL’s ability to operate oil tanker trucks at oil collection points. To conduct these strikes the U.S. employed fighter aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
A little over a week ago, USA Today reported:
A U.S.-led air campaign aimed at crippling the Islamic State’s oil business knocked out the militant’s main oil infrastructure in Syria, dealing a major blow to the group’s finances, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The airstrikes have largely shut down the Deir ez-Zor facility in Syria, which accounted for about two-thirds of the Islamic State’s oil revenue, said Col. Steve Warren, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
“We do believe we pretty much turned off the Deir ez-Zor oil capacity,” he said.
The damage follows a month-long air campaign aimed at crippling the Islamic State’s black market oil business.
As part of the campaign, coalition aircraft destroyed 399 tanker trucks that were used to deliver black market oil, the Pentagon said. Before launching the airstrikes, the coalition dropped leaflets instructing the drivers to abandon their vehicles. To reinforce the message, aircraft dropped bombs in front of and behind the convoys.
U.S. and coalition attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft continue to pound other ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve which started in August 2014.
The numbers in terms of strikes, sorties, weapons dropped and dollars spent are staggering.
Readers will decide for themselves whether it is all worth it or not.
But here they are:
As of Dec. 5, U.S. and partner nation aircraft have flown an estimated 59,877 sorties in support of operations in Iraq and Syria.
As of Dec. 9, the U.S. and coalition have conducted a total of 8,783 strikes (5,765 Iraq / 3,018 Syria).
• U.S. has conducted 6,846 strikes in Iraq and Syria (4,005 Iraq / 2,841 Syria)
• Rest of Coalition has conducted 1,937 strikes in Iraq and Syria (1,760 Iraq /177 Syria)
In November alone, 3,271 weapons were dropped, almost double the 1,683 in June, bringing “to almost 32,000 the weapons — most of them precision-guided — dropped by fighters, B-1B bombers and drones in almost 11,000 combat sorties since August 2014, according to statistics compiled by U.S. Air Forces Central Command that were obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of publication,” says Bloomberg.com.
One of the 3,271 munitions dropped in November “was a laser-guided Hellfire missile fired at a vehicle in Syria carrying British citizen Mohamed Emwazi , the Islamic State extremist known as ‘Jihadi John,’” Bloomberg adds.
Bloomberg:”The munitions dropped by the U.S. in airstrikes so far have cost $1.2 billion, or 23 percent of the $5.2 billion spent on operations against Islamic State, according to Pentagon statistics.”
That comes out to an average daily cost for “kinetic operations” of $11 million for 465 days of operations, says DOD.
Below is a DOD chart depicting the number of targets damaged or destroyed as of November 13, 2015, before the more intense strikes on oil facilities.
Lead photo: A U.S. seaman directs an E/A-18G Growler to the catapult on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the U.S. 5th fleet area of operations, May 28, 2015. The Theodore Roosevelt is supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, which includes strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.