United States and allied operations in the Middle East in 2022 killed more than 600 Islamic State insurgents.
The United States conducted 313 operations over the course of the year under the authority of the CENTCOM commander and the command of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. Fourteen of those operations were unilateral operations by the U.S., while the others were coordinated and executed with local partners.
“The emerging, reliable and steady ability of our Iraqi and Syrian partner forces to conduct unilateral operations to capture and kill ISIS leaders allows us to maintain steady pressure on the ISIS network,” Major Gen. Matt McFarlane, commander of CJTF – OIR, said in the CENTCOM statement.
U.S.-led partner operations killed a number of ISIS leaders throughout the year. On Dec. 11, a raid by U.S. forces killed two ISIS leaders, including one involved heavily in deadly operations in eastern Syria, in a helicopter raid. In a statement from CENTCOM spokesperson Col. Joe Buccino, an operation by The Free Syrian Army killed ISIS head Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in late October.
The statement also mentioned ongoing security concerns in the fight against the Islamic State, despite the successes of the United States and local partners. The number of ISIS fighters in prison — roughly 10,000 fighters in Syria and 20,000 in Iraq — presents a threat to regional security. Prison sites in the countries have in the past been targets for insurgents — and where the United States killed the most amount of ISIS fighters in the countries.
In January 2022, ISIS insurgents attacked a prison in al-Hasakah, Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces eventually repelled the attack and subsequent prison riot. The fighting led to the deaths of more than 400 ISIS fighters and 120 partner forces, according to the statement.
CENTCOM leaders also highlighted the urgent needs at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. The refugee camp, run nominally by Syrian Democratic Forces, has been a recruiting tool for the Islamic State, officials said. This year, a number of ISIS networks operating and recruiting in the camp were disbanded as Syrian forces worked to take back control from ISIS.
“CENTCOM remains focused on supporting these security forces as they diligently work to improve conditions at the camp,” Gen. Michael Kurilla, CENTCOM commander, in a statement. “However, the only viable long-term solution remains the successful repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the camp residents back to their country of origin.”
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.