ISIL fighter number falls to 15,000 as Manbij capture Cuts off Route to Europe

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) |

AP is reporting that Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland maintains that the number of ISIL fighters in Syria and Iraq is in steep decline, having fallen to as little as 15,000, down from 25,000 at the organization’s height.

In Iraq the organization has lost Tikrit, Beiji, Mt. Sinjar, Sinjar, Diyala, Ramadi and Falluja among other cities. In Syria it lost northern al-Raqqa, was pushed out of al-Hasaka, lost Palmyra.

It has lost funding through the bombing or capture of its oil refineries.

The joint Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces backed by US special forces and US and allied air forces has consolidated its control over the key city of Manbij in northern Syria. Nairoz Kobani, spokeswoman for the Women Units of the leftist Kurdish YPG, says that the remaining 150 fighters are fleeing toward Turkey and have taken some 2,000 persons hostage. She said that those fleeing north are mostly foreign fighters from Russia, the Caucasus and North Africa. Local Syrian Daesh fighters just threw down their weapons and melded into the refugee flow pretending to be civilians.

Without Manbij, Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) will find it more difficult to import weapons and foreign fighters to al-Raqqa. Other routes still open to it, such as Jarabulus, are also under pressure and could be the next target of the Syrian Democratic Forces. It is much further to import foreign munitions.

Daesh as a territorial power is coming to a slow end; Daesh as a source of terrorism still has a good long run.
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6 Responses

    • I really wonder if the true number is that low? In an article from February 2015, Patrick Cockburn referred to “up to 100,000 Isis fighters”. In the year and a half since, a lot of those men might have been killed or gravely injured. But surely not fifty or eighty thousand-plus of them?

    • It’s not the guys so much as the equipment they get from Saudi Arabia and Turkey. If all this equipment and munitions were to cease coming from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, there would be a rapid de-escalation of conflict. Instead, we have the result we see today.

    • Not doing anything. #ReallyAbsurd
      I’m glad Sinjar was liberated. Same for Kobane to Manjib.
      Thanks Obama!

  1. Juan, I would be curious to know your thoughts regarding this long piece from NY Times on the longer history of the Middle East and our involvement there:

    Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart

    link to nytimes.com

  2. What i find fascinating in the fight against ISIS is there is never any mention of how the get their oil money out of a war zone, and then how do they get there weapons?

    Maybe instead of spending billions of dollars to blow them up, how about a few million to prosecute the banksers who make these wars possible?

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