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The chair of the joint chiefs of staff reveals biggest lesson he's learned in the fight against ISIS


Gen. Dunford touring a facility in Kabul Base Cluster | Flickr

The US has been able to greatly improve its use of intelligence over the 600-day fight against ISIS, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Business Insider on Tuesday.

"If you want to talk about lessons learned, I'll tell you, I'm probably relearning lessons over the last couple of years, and No. 1 is intelligence," Gen. Joseph Dunford said in response to a question from Business Insider during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"If you want to know why our operation's quantifiably more effective today than they were a year and a half ago, it's because our intelligence is getting much better," Dunford continued.

Dunford had stressed in recent congressional testimony that with nearly 100 nations and approximately 30,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, the US military needed more cooperation from other nations' intelligence operations.

"I won't go into great detail right now, but in terms of how you fully harness the intelligence community, getting the right people in the right places to do target development — has been something that's frustrating to me," Dunford said Tuesday.

"I think we've made some improvements that result in the progress that we have made," he added.

Dunford's comments came days after the Pentagon announced the US-led coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve, killed Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, the top financier for ISIS (aka Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). It was a sign of the progress to which Dunford referred.

"We're systematically eliminating ISIL's cabinet," US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during a briefing last Friday.

As of March 15, the US-led coalition has conducted a total of 10,962 strikes throughout the region, with 7,336 strikes in Iraq and 3,626 strikes being conducted in Syria.

The Department of Defense puts the total cost of anti-ISIS operations at $6.5 billion as of February 29, 2016. And the average daily cost stands at about $11.4 million for 571 days of operations.

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