Coalition service members pose after conducting a close quarters live-fire exercise at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Oct. 30, 2023.

Coalition service members pose after conducting a close quarters live-fire exercise at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Oct. 30, 2023. (Damion Clark/U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON — American forces have killed or captured dozens of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria in the past month, amid an uptick in attacks against U.S. bases in those countries, military officials said Thursday.

During November, U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria killed at least four ISIS militants and detained 33 others, according to U.S. Central Command, the Defense Department’s operational command for the Middle East.

“Even in the midst of complex challenges within the region, CENTCOM remains steadfast to the region and the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said Army Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, CENTCOM commander.

Those challenges include the conflict between Israel and Hamas following the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack, and the ongoing attacks against various U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq. Since mid-October, there have been at least 78 attacks on American installations in those countries that have caused more than 60 minor injuries to U.S. personnel, the Pentagon has said.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, the United States has moved military assets into the region to protect U.S. service members there and deter other groups or countries from escalating the fighting. Those assets include aircraft carrier strike groups and squadrons of fighter jets.

CENTCOM said it carried out 40 operations against ISIS during November — 24 in Iraq and 16 in Syria. Three of the militants were killed in Iraq and the other died in Syria, officials said.

“These operations highlight [our] enduring commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS and the continued need for targeted military efforts to prevent ISIS members from conducting further attacks,” CENTCOM said.

Officials said U.S. and coalition forces disrupted several militant cells in the country during the month, including one that planned attacks on prisons in Syria to free ISIS captives and another that produced explosive belts for suicide attackers.

“We have a very important mission there, focused on the defeat ISIS mission. It’s the only reason our forces are there,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, told reporters this week. “They will stay focused on that and we’re going to stay focused on protecting them.”

The Pentagon has not indicated which militant groups are attacking the U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria, but defense officials said they’re all acting with support from Iran and are “proxy groups.” For decades, Iran and aligned militant groups have said one of their top goals is to eradicate Israel and force U.S. troops out of the region. The attacks have all involved rockets and one-way drones, but the Pentagon said none have caused serious injuries or major structural or property damage.

“The United States, along with many countries in the region, have provided a presence there to ensure international security and stability. We will continue to play an important role in that effort,” Ryder said.

On Thursday, the Senate defeated a resolution that would have forced President Joe Biden to remove all 900 U.S. troops from Syria. It was sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and 13 senators voted for the measure — five Republicans, seven Democrats and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Eighty-three senators voted against the resolution and three didn’t vote.

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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