Battle casualties, desertions reduce ISIS ranks by 20%: U.S.

ISISBattle casualties, desertions reduce ISIS ranks by 20%: U.S.

Published 5 February 2016

A U.S. intelligence report, cited yesterday by a White House spokesman, says that the number of ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq has fallen from about 31,000 to 25,000. Senior U.S. officials point to battlefield casualties and desertions as the main reasons for the roughly 20 percent decline, adding that the intelligence report offers evidence that the U.S.-led campaign, which relies mostly on air attacks on ISIS targets, was working.

Flag og ISIS (ISIL) // Source: commons.wikimedia.org

A U.S. intelligence report, cited yesterday by a White House spokesman, says that the number of ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq has fallen from about 31,000 to 25,000.

Senior U.S. officials point to battlefield casualties and desertions as the main reasons for the roughly 20 percent decline, adding that the intelligence report offers evidence that the U.S.-led campaign, which relies mostly on air attacks on ISIS targets, was working.

ABC New reports that Josh Ernst, the White House spokesman, stressed that U.S.-backed security forces in Iraq, and tribal militias and moderate opposition groups in Syria, made important contributions to weakening ISIS.

Earnest said the new US intelligence estimate “means they [ISIS] continue to be a substantial threat, but the potential numbers have declined.”

ISIS has sustained significant casualties,” Earnest added.

Ernest said that ground fighting by partners of the United States has been an important element in the war against ISIS, ate the same time that international efforts to disrupt and block the flow of foreigners who were seeking to join ISIS have become more effective.

ISIL is having more difficulty than they’ve had before in replenishing their ranks, and we have long been aware of the need of the international community to cooperate to stop the flow of foreign fighters to the region,” said Earnest.

The new intelligence report says there are now 19,000-25,000 fighters in ISIS’s ranks in Iraq and Syria, down from the 2014 estimates of 20,000 to 31,000 fighters.

Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that “The decrease reflects the combined effects of battlefield deaths, desertions, internal disciplinary actions, recruiting shortfalls, and difficulties that foreign fighters face traveling to Syria.”

Security experts say another reason for the decreasing number of ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq is that some north African jihadists who were planning to travel to Syria to join ISIS, have instead gone to Libya. ISIS has called on its followers in north Africa to go to Libya to strengthen the group’s presence in the country, and expand the territory under ISIS control on the Mediterranean coast in north-west Libya.

The intelligence report, though, made no reference to ISIS affiliates in south Asia, the Middle East outside of Syria and Iraq, and north Africa.

There are differences between the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community in their assessment of the strength of ISIS presence in Libya. The Pentagon puts the number of ISIS-affiliated fighters in Libya at about 3,000, while the intelligence community says the number is 5,000-6,000.

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