ISIS defections mount as death toll rises, U.S. official says

USA Today reports: Defections of Islamic State fighters — a closely watched measure by officials of U.S.-led coalition — have begun to thin the ranks of the militants in Iraq in the last month, intelligence reports and drone footage show.

Wholesale defections, sparsely manned checkpoints and elite foreign fighters pressed into mundane duty indicate that the U.S.-led bombing campaign and advances by Kurdish forces are eroding the forces of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, said Army Col. Steve Warren, the top spokesman for the counter-ISIL coalition in Baghdad.

Top military officials estimate that the campaign has killed 23,000 Islamic State fighters, raising their death toll by 3,000 since mid-October. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East as chief of Central Command, told troops last week in Iraq that the campaign is inflicting maximum pain on the enemy, according to a military official who attended the meeting but who was not authorized to speak publicly about it. [Continue reading…]

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