(CNSNews.com) - U.S. Gen. Raymond Thomas, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told a symposium Maryland on Tuesday that the U.S.-led coaltion has "killed over 60,000" Islamic State fighters. CNN reported Gen. Thomas's comments.
At a news conference on Wednesday, a reporter at the Pentagon asked British Major-General Rupert Jones, the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition, about a discrepancy in body count numbers.
While Gen. Thomas said 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed, at a Dec. 15, 2016 news conference in London, England, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters that "more than 25,000 Daesh fighters have now been killed."
How do you explain the large difference in numbers? the reporter asked Gen. Rupert Jones:
Turning to your question about numbers of Daesh killed since the start of the campaign, off the top of my head I cannot remember the working figure in terms of the total number killed since the start of the campaign. But the figure that the U.K. secretary of state was referring to of about 25,000 is the figure that we have recorded of enemy killed during the course of the calendar year of 2016.
Now, we work very closely to ensure that we understand not only how many -- whether or not we might have caused any civilian casualties, but also we do our best to understand how many enemy we've killed on the ground. Of course, that is difficult to do and it's not a precise art, but we do keep a running total after each strike as to how many enemy we think we struck. The figure of 25,000 Secretary Fallon was referring to was a 2016 calendar year figure.
I confess, I'm not certain where the 60,000 figure came -- came from, but I am -- I am confident that since the beginning of the campaign, we will have killed at least that many. So I suspect that's what he was referring to.
The U.S. military has been reluctant to discuss body counts.
In an October 2015 news conference, Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, told reporters, "The numbers of killed -- you know, we try to stay away from body counts, generally speaking."
But three months later, a reporter asked Warren how the coalition counts the number of enemy killed:
"Great question. Very fair," Warren responded. "And when reporters come here to Baghdad, they're able to see exactly how we do it because we bring them into the ops center and show them. Before any strike, we have ISR, we call it, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Usually, a drone, a predator -- some other type of drone observing that target before the weapon impacts, and so we can just count, you know?
"When you're looking at these video screens, you can see exactly how many fighters are there and you can count them -- one, two, three, four, five, six. Drop the bomb. You watch for a couple more minutes. Nobody's moving. Scratch six."