IS manpower lowest since 2014, US claims

IS manpower lowest since 2014, US claims
US-led coalition air raids and anti-IS advances on the ground are putting back the jihadi group's fighting abilities to 2014 levels, an official from the State Department has said.
2 min read
13 April, 2016
Iraqi forces are pushing into Islamic State group territories [AFP]
Air raids by an international coalition and advances on the ground by local Iraqi and Syrian are having a serious impact on the Islamic State group's fighting abilities, US senior officials have said.

IS ranks have been hit hard and are at their lowest since the group launched its lightening advance in Syria and Iraq in 2014, deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed on Tuesday.

"Working by, with and through local partners, we have taken back 40 percent of the territory that Daesh [IS] controlled a year ago in Iraq and 10 percent in Syria," Blinken told members of the Senate.

"In fact, we assess Daesh's numbers are the lowest they've been since we began monitoring their manpower in 2014."

Despite the claim that IS' rank-and-file has been seriously diminished, Blinken did not put a new figure on the size of the jihadi group's fighting force.

In September 2014 - the last estimate to which Blinken referred - a US intelligence official told AFP that the CIA believed the group could put between 20,000 and 31,500 foreign and local fighters in the field.

Since then, reports suggest that IS have taken a pounding.

In Iraq, US-air raids have helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces push IS fighters back from Tikrit and Ramadi, while Kurdish militias have also taken territory in northern Syria.

Russian and pro-regime groups recaptured the city of Palmyra last month, while Syrian rebels are battling IS in Aleppo province.

However, many claim that much of the land that has been lost is in desert territories, which hold no strategic value to the group.

But defectors and intelligence reports would suggest that IS are preparing for further losses and many in the group's leadership - and military commanders - have been assasinated in US-led coalition air raids.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces are preparing for a long-awaited assault on Mosul, the largest city in IS' control.

Agencies contributed to this story.