Islamic State losses 'could backfire' warn US officials

Islamic State losses 'could backfire' warn US officials
The Islamic State group's recent losses across Iraq and Syria could backfire, US officials suggest, citing sympathy from Sunni tribes who oppose anti-IS Shia fighters.
2 min read
23 June, 2016
Islamic State militants have suffered grave losses in recent months [Getty]
The international fight against the Islamic State [IS] is far from eradicating the group and could backfire despite recent military gains against the militants in Iraq and Syria, US officials have warned.

The group's recent losses against a range of international forces – comprised mainly of Shia and Kurdish fighters – could give the group greater legitimacy in the eyes of Sunni Muslims, US intelligence officials believe.

Earlier this month, Iraqi tribes demanded that the alliance of Shia militias from the ongoing offensive in the Sunni-majority city of Fallujah be removed from the battle.

The Anbar Provincial Council told Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the Popular Mobilisation Forces operating on the periphery of IS-held Fallujah – and who have been pivotal in the fight against IS across Iraq – must leave immediately to stop revenge attacks on Sunni civilians.

It follows reports that pro-government militants are beating up civilians fleeing the city and that hundreds more might have been murdered by fighters.

A spokesman of the group put the number of Popular Mobilisation Force fighters involved at the beginning of the Fallujah operation at 30,000.

The Islamic State group has suffered a recent series of military setbacks and lost territory in both Iraq and Syria as government forces, including international troops from the anti-IS coalition, launched an offensive against the group in August 2014.

Most recently, Iraqi pro-government fighters that launched a large-scale military operation to retake the strategic IS-hub Fallujah, managed to erect government flags at the main government compound after defeating IS.

Similarly in Libya, militants – numbered at an estimated 5,000 – have been put under pressure by pro-unity-government forces.

Last week, CIA chief John Brennan said the Islamic State group still maintains its notorious global reach despite suffering a string of major losses across the region.

Militants are still able to both conduct and inspire attacks across the globe, he said shortly after a gunman who supposedly pledged allegiance to IS killed 49 people at a nightclub in Florida.

"Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach," Brennan said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

"We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks," Brennan said.

"ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West."