French Aircraft Carrier Exercises Against Islamic State in Mediterranean Sea
French aircraft onboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle conduct exercises in an operation against Islamic State in the Mediterranean Sea, Tuesday, February 11. ––––––––– READ MORE: The operations against the Islamic State group are part of Operation Chammal, the French component of the anti-IS coalition Inherent Resolve, off the coast of the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean sea. U.S. defense and intelligence officials say the special forces operation that killed former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria last October has done little to hinder the terror group. The Defense Intelligence Agency warns the organization’s command and control structure, as well as many of its clandestine networks remain intact, and recent turmoil in the region due to Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria has played to its advantage. There are also signs that the collapse of its self-declared caliphate and ongoing pressure from the U.S.-led coalition has taken a toll on IS’s ability to project strength. U.S. counterterrorism officials warn the terror group still commands at least 14,000 fighters across Iraq and Syria. State Department officials say the number could be closer to 18,000, up from an estimated more than 10,000 this past May, just months after the caliphate collapsed. A recent intelligence report from the United Nations likewise warns anywhere from half to two-thirds of the more than 40,000 foreign fighters who flocked to Syria and Iraq to fight for IS “are still alive,” many of them unaccounted for.