Arab states play meager role in anti-IS campaign, figures show

US planes dominant in coalition effort, carrying out 1,768 airstrikes to allied countries’ 195, defense officials say

Illustrative photo of two US Super Hornets supporting operations against IS, October 4, 2014. (AFP/US Air Force handout/Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)
Illustrative photo of two US Super Hornets supporting operations against IS, October 4, 2014. (AFP/US Air Force handout/Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)

WASHINGTON — Arab and other allied countries have carried out about 10 percent of the nearly 2,000 air raids against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria since early August, US defense officials said Monday.

US warplanes have conducted 1,768 airstrikes since August 8, while other coalition aircraft have carried about 195 air raids against the IS jihadists, defense officials told AFP, citing a tally through Sunday.

The numbers, which for the first time shed light on the participation of Arab coalition partners, reflect the dominant role of the US military in the air campaign.

But Pentagon officials have insisted the role for Arab and European partners is likely to grow over time.

The Arab states involved in the operation in Syria — Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — have been reluctant to divulge details of their participation in the airstrikes.

But for Washington and the West, the presence of the Arab countries has carried crucial symbolism in the fight against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group.

France, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia have committed aircraft for the effort in Iraq, though their presence has been on a small scale so far.

Other figures released by officials and by US Central Command showed the mounting scale of the air campaign, which began on August 8 in Iraq and was extended into Syria on September 23.

US and coalition aircraft have flown more than 4,800 sorties in the air war, including more than 1,600 refueling runs by tankers, 700 surveillance flights as well as bombing missions, a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

At the current pace, the air operation will soon surpass the air war in Libya that involved more than 7,000 sorties by US and allied aircraft over about six months.

US and other aircraft have dropped about nearly 1,000 bombs in less than two months, officials said. That number, described as “offensive munitions,” includes 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired into Syria on the first day of operations there two weeks ago. Each Tomahawk costs more than one million dollars.

The munitions used so far, including numerous precision-guided bombs and missiles, cost about $62.4 million, according to Central Command.

The figure for the cost of bombs used by naval jets flying off a US aircraft carrier was not available.

As of Sunday, there have been more than 260 US and coalition airstrikes in Iraq and at least 93 in Syria.

In Iraq, the most frequent target was near Mosul dam, with 98 air raids, according to the Centcom figures.

Aircraft targeted IS positions near Kobani, the besieged town near the Turkish border defended by Kurdish fighters, in at least 13 strikes, Central Command said.

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