ShareThis Page
World

Islamic State has lost more than a fifth of its territory, says report

| Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

The Islamic State has lost about 22 percent of its territory in Iraq and Syria in the past 15 months, according to a new study.

In 2014, the terrorist group exploited the power vacuums racking the region, surging into major cities on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian desert border. Since then, its brutal massacres and myriad acts of destruction have sparked global outrage and prompted more than a year of airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition.

Now, according to a report from IHS Jane's 360, the tide is decisively turning against the terrorist organization. Despite a territorial advance last summer in parts of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has suffered significant setbacks. IHS estimated that the Islamic State lost about 14 percent of the territory under its control in 2015 and a further 8 percent in the first three months of this year.

The monitoring group attributes these defeats to a changing strategic landscape. The loss of the pivotal Syrian border crossing of Tal Abyad took out one of the Islamic State's chief access points for smuggling in weapons, materiel and fighters. Tighter Turkish border controls also have thinned out cash flows, as well as the numbers of foreign recruits seeking to join the group.

Airstrikes by the U.S.-led campaign and an ongoing Russian mission in Syria have pinned the Islamic State back. With that support, Syrian Kurdish factions allied with a number of Arab outfits have pushed against the militants in Syria's northeast; the Iraqi military, backed by Iranian-sponsored Shiite militias, has reclaimed key cities in the heart of Iraq; and government troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are approaching the central city of Palmyra, home to an ancient heritage site the Islamic State seized and started ransacking last year.

“Isolation and further military defeats will make it harder for the Islamic State to attract new recruits to Syria from the pool of foreign jihadis,” writes Columb Strack, a Middle East analyst at IHS.

But the demise of the Islamic State is hardly a foregone conclusion. As a separate report from the Institute for the Study of War points out, the threat posed by the extremists is not limited by geography. Even as the group suffered defeats in Iraq and Syria, its proxies carried out brazen attacks from Jakarta to Paris and numerous other places.

Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, an Iran-backed Shiite militia and Iraq's army will launch an offensive soon to push Islamic State fighters away from the northern oil region of Kirkuk, a state newspaper reported Wednesday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me