State Dept.: ISIS Militants Lowest in 2 Years, Have Lost 50 Percent of Territory


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Source: Chen Xiaowei/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Source: Chen Xiaowei/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Throughout much of the election season, national security and the threat of ISIS has become a hot talking point, especially in light of recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., Paris, and Brussels. But new information from the State Department reveals that threat may not be as big as we imagine.

The Guardian reported that through “international and local military action in Iraq and Syria” the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has lost nearly half of its fighting forces.


“Working by, with and through local partners, we have taken back 40% of the territory that Daesh controlled a year ago in Iraq and 10% in Syria,” Anthony Blinken, deputy secretary of state, told U.S. lawmakers in prepared testimony.

“In fact, we assess Daesh’s numbers are the lowest they’ve been since we began monitoring their manpower in 2014,” Blinken added, referring to the militant group by their less-preferred moniker.

“Daesh” is similar to the Arabic word “daes,” or “one who crushes something underfoot,” and “dahes,” translated as “one who sows discord.” “Daesh” is an Arabic word for the phrase, “al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham” (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant).

While Blinken did not offer any current estimates, “a U.S. intelligence official told AFP [in September 2014] that the CIA believed the group could put between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in the field, both foreign fighters and local recruits,” The Guardian wrote.

That number now seems to be significantly lower.

Since 2014, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by the U.S. military, have retaken the cities of Tikrit and Ramadi, along with territory in northern Syria. Additionally, Syrian forces aligned with Russian support have recaptured Palmyra, a city widely publicized when it was overtaken by ISIS, but received little attention when it was taken back.

On Wednesday, President Obama and top aides will sit down to evaluate the strides made by the military and assess new proposals “to reinforce those elements of our strategy that are showing the most success,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday.

Whatever the outcome of those meetings, it’s reassuring to know the strategy so far has proved fruitful.


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