The Pentagon has not conducted airstrikes against an estimated 60 Islamic State (IS) training camps that are supplying thousands of fighters each month to the terror group, according to defense and intelligence officials.
The camps are spread throughout Islamic State-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria and are off limits in the U.S.-led international bombing campaign because of concerns about collateral damage, said officials familiar with planning and execution of the yearlong bombing campaign.
Additionally, the IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) camps have been so successful that Islamic State leaders are considering expanding the camps to Libya and Yemen. Both states have become largely ungoverned areas in recent years.
The failure to target the training camps with U.S. and allied airstrikes is raising questions among some defense and intelligence officials about the commitment of President Obama and his senior aides to the current anti-IS strategy of degrading and ultimately destroying the terror group.
“If we know the location of these camps, and the president wants to destroy ISIS, why are the camps still functioning?” one official critical of the policy asked.
The camps are regarded by U.S. intelligence analysts as a key element in the terror group’s successes in holding and taking new territory. The main benefit of the training camps is that they are providing a continuous supply of new fighters.
An additional worry of intelligence analysts is that some of the foreign fighters being trained in the camps will eventually return to their home countries in Europe and North America to carry out terror attacks.