Erbil – Ambassadors and senior diplomatic representatives of the 68-member Global Coalition to Counter ISIS were told by the US special envoy Brett McGurk that ISIS is losing territory, access to foreign fighters, revenue, borders, and propaganda.
According to McGurk, all indicators in the war on the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group are now trending in a positive direction. He further emphasized the need to maintain maximum pressure on ISIS to sustain the momentum achieved to date.
“Local ground forces, with coalition support, have now retaken 56 percent of the populated territory ISIS once held in Iraq and 27 percent of what it once held in Syria. These numbers continue to increase with simultaneous operations now underway to liberate ISIS’s ‘territorial’ capital in Mosul and to isolate its ‘administrative’ capital in Raqqa,” the coalition said in a statement on Tuesday.
Moreover, the pro-ISIS foreign fighters flow almost dropped to zero.
“Foreign terrorist fighter flow into Syria and Iraq is down significantly, from approximately 1,000 per month in 2014, to approximately 500 per month in 2015, to a negligible amount today,” the US special envoy told coalition partners.
“The number of overall ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria is now at its lowest level in more than two and half years, and ISIS is unable to replenish its ranks or reinforce its positions in territory it still holds. Our coalition is committed to continuing our efforts to staunch its foreign networks globally,” the coalition said.
The coalition also announced ISIS has difficulties in funding its operations as a result of military operations and intelligence collection. “This pressure has led ISIS to slash payments to its fighters and levy extortionist taxes upon the population it seeks to control.”
Furthermore, ISIS is increasingly losing border access due to military operations by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which liberated in August the city of Manbij–that has for long served as a jihadi border pocket. Also, Turkish forces took the town of Jarablus from the militant group.
“In recent months, Manbij – which had been a hub for foreign terrorist fighter travel and ISIS external operation plotting – has been liberated, resulting in a treasure trove of intelligence information,” the coalition said. “Turkey has also successfully led operations to remove ISIS from the last 98-kilometer strip along its border, thereby denying ISIS for the first time access to any outside international border.”
In the meantime, the death toll among high-ranking ISIS jihadists has increased recently. “Nearly all of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputies – including his chief of external operations, and ministers of war, finance, and propaganda – have been killed and it is a matter of time before Baghdadi meets the same fate,” the coalition said.
“Our precision airstrikes are also targeting ISIS’s external plotters, military commanders, administration officials, foreign fighter facilitators, communicators, and battlefield fighters.
The US-led coalition further said that it is working with governments and non-governmental partners around the world to counter ISIS propaganda.
“Twitter has suspended nearly 400,000 ISIS- related or affiliated sites over the past year. Counter ISIS content is now more prevalent online, and ISIS’s primary recruiting pitch – as a historic and expanding territorial movement – is no longer credible, as its territory shrinks and leaders die.”
Nevertheless, the coalition acknowledged that the fight is not over. “While we continue to make significant gains against this barbaric enemy, we acknowledge that this will be a long-term fight that requires international cooperation,” it said. “ISIS continues to produce scores of suicide bombers every month and it is poised to fight until the death in the territory that it continues to hold.”