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Spike in CF airstrikes surrounding conclusion of major operations in Syria

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The 26 March CJTF-OIR Strike Summary identified 250 CF strikes consisting of 398 engagements against IS in Syria and Iraq between 10-23 March. Figures for Iraq represent the highest number of strikes since bi-weekly reporting was introduced in December 2018, more than doubling the next highest count of 25 strikes between 10-23 February. These conditions were likely influenced by efforts to disrupt increased IS cross-border infiltration tied to the collapse of the last IS stronghold in eastern Syria. An uptick in strikes in Kirkuk Province was likely conducted in response to IS activity including the deadly 6 March ambush against off-duty PMF members south of Makhmour.

CF strike levels will be important to monitor in both Syria and Iraq as a baseline is reestablished following the conclusion of major operations in Syria. Illustrating significant reporting challenges, previous reporting from non-CF sources only attributed two strikes to CF aircraft during the mentioned period, with four other strikes attributed to Iraqi aircraft. Contributing to these challenges, the bulk of CF strikes likely occurred in rural desert areas of western Iraq.

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