Despite a rash of global terrorist attacks either directed or inspired by ISIS, the terrorist organisation is quickly finding itself caught on its back foot.
Between a series of battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria, a hardening of the international coalition against it, and airstrikes that have begun to directly target the militant group’s main sources of finance, ISIS is quickly reaching a point of unexpected weakness, The Washington Post reports citing experts and analysts.
In January, the US military announced that ISIS had lost an estimated 40% of its territory that it once controlled in Iraq.
In Syria, gains against the group were less pronounced, but the militants are still thought to have lost about 20% of the territory it controlled.
These blows have significantly lowered the amount of capital ISIS has on hand — the militants announced in January that fighters in Iraq and Syria would be suffering from a 50% pay cut across the board.
“These issues suggest that as an entity that is determined to hold onto territory, the Islamic State is not sustainable,” Jacob Shapiro, an expert on ISIS and a Princeton University politics professor, told WaPo.
Indeed, the pay cuts and battlefield losses have led to higher instances of both “for-profit militants” in ISIS’s ranks looking “for better deals” with other factions, as well as a decrease in the number of foreign fighters flowing into the group’s ranks, Vera Mironova, an expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, told WaPo.
This decline in replenishing foreign fighters has cut the ability of ISIS to operate as effectively. ISIS is also further hampered by Turkey’s decision to more tightly patrol its southern border, which has limited the ability for potential recruits to flow into Syria.
Ankara and the US are also in talks to train a Sunni Arab paramilitary force that would function on the Syrian side of the border in an effort to fully disrupt ISIS’s ability to bring in supplies and fighters.
Such setbacks are ripe for causing unrest amongst the various factions operating within the militant organisation. ISIS already suffers from deep divisions between foreign and local fighters within its organisation, and a series of continued losses is likely to only further increase tensions among the competing forces in the group.
However, even if ISIS does continue to lose ground in both Syria and Iraq, the organisation will most likely shift to more pronounced attacks abroad in an effort to gain continued credibility and influence. Secretary of State John Kerry warned on on February 2, for instance, that ISIS was capitalising on the ongoing chaos in Libya to further its operations there.
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