U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken addresses the press after a conference of global coalition partners intended to counter advances by the Islamic State (ISIS) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris on June 2, 2015. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo
PARIS, June 3 (UPI) -- Over 10,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.
His comments, to France Inter radio, came as he led the U.S. delegation to a meeting of countries fighting IS with airstrikes and supporting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Paris this week. He added IS currently controls 25 percent less territory within Iraq than it did in August 2014, when coalition airstrikes began.
"There has been important progress, but equally Daesh (an Arabic term for IS) remains very resilient and capable of taking the initiative," he said. He acknowledged setbacks which included the loss of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to IS, a battle in which Iraqi soldiers, though outnumbering the enemy, fled their positions and allowed the city to fall.
"At the start of this campaign (the coalition) said it would take time. We have conceived a three-year plan and we're nine months into it," Blinken said.
His estimate of IS casualties was not independently verified. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that as of April 1, about 922 IS fighters have been killed in Syria. U.S. Director for National Intelligence James Clapper said in February up to 32,000 people were fighting for IS but noted "substantial attrition" in its forces.
Secretary of State John Kerry, recovering in the United States from a bicycle injury, told participants at the meeting, by phone, that the fall of Ramadi prompted the decision to send 2,000 AT-4 missiles to Iraq for use against suicide truck bombs.
"The French will be giving similar weapons (and) ammunition, and we are discussing other co-operation projects," Iraqi ambassador to France Fareed Yasseen told Europe 1 Radio.