Coalition airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria have shifted from set destinations and buildings to moving targets in the past months, according to data obtained by USA Today on Sunday. This change is strategy is an attempt by allied ground forces to disrupt its black market sale of oil. The attacks on moving targets has increased since the fall and are often groups of fighters who appear in the open desert as a result of allied ground forces. Pilots from the U.S.-led coalition launched a campaign to destroy tankers smuggling oil, a key revenue source for ISIL. Airstrikes have destroyed about 400 tankers.
U.S. backed opposition fighters in northern Syria have forced ISIS fighters to move to fight back, according to Nicholas Heras of the Center for a New American Security. Elite ISIS foreign fighters from other Islamic countries have hunkered down in Syrian cities using civilians as a human shield and essentially becoming shielded from airstrikes because of the United States directive to avoid civilian casualties. 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 increase of fighting comes as President Obama will head to the Pentagon on Monday to meet with his national security team to get updated on progress of defeating ISIS. However, targeting moving targets creates a greater risk of civilian casualties, which has become a major concern for American commanders who believe such losses would lead to the loss of local support and causing them to side with ISIS.
Nearly 78% of the 8,783 attacks with bombs and missiles on targets in Iraq and Syria on the Islamic State have come from U.S. warplanes since the air war began in August 2014. In Syria, the heart of the Islamic State, 94% of the air raids have been made by American pilots, the figures show. Apart from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq and Syria and halting efforts by Iraqi security forces on the ground, the war is largely an American air campaign.
Allies such as the British and Italians, fly tankers refueling warplanes and drones to spy on the Islamic extremist group. Arab allies only fly occasional missions, according to a senior Defense official. Heras explained the reasoning behind the U.S. launching the majority of airstrikes in comparison to the other coalition members.
It makes a lot of sense that the U.S. would be carrying out such a disproportionate number of airstrikes compared to its coalition partners,” The U.S., of all its coalition partners, has the largest and most well-developed forward-deployed force structure in the Middle East, which no other regional or global partner, or global rival such as Russia, can match.”
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters during his visit to the Pentagon that his military has increased the number of missions against ISIS and cited that mere hours after Parliament voted to allow airstrikes in Syria, warplanes began strikes against key oil targets that ISIS relies on for revenue.