As Iraqi forces close in on the Islamic State’s final patches of territory, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has given the once-powerful terror group an ultimatum: Surrender or die.
“Daesh members have to choose between death and surrender,” Abadi said, using a derogatory term for ISIS.
ISIS has suffered severe territorial losses and bell weather defeats in the past month, as a US-led bombing campaign and US-backed and trained forces ground the group down to its last legs.
At a Department of Defence briefing on Tuesday, the top US general, Joseph Dunford, said that at ISIS’s height, “we saw as many as 40,000 foreign fighters from 120 different countries.”
At the same briefing, Brett McGurk the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, said the flow of foreign fighters had nearly stopped, and the group’s funding is at its “lowest level ever.”
McGurk pointed to ISIS’ own propaganda, which “about a year ago” stopped advising foreign fighters to come to Syria as the group was losing badly on the ground.
ISIS used to hold significant cities and oilfields in Iraq and Syria, but recent US-backed offensives have relegated them to a section of desert along the Iraqi-Syrian border, effectively trapping them.
Initially, after declaring the “caliphate,” or territory under ISIS’ ultra-hardline Islamic control in 2014, ISIS fighters proved potent on the battlefield rolling back Iraqi security forces. But after a US-led intervention that ultimately gained support from 75 countries, the terror group has nearly imploded.
The group carried out high profile attacks abroad, notably killing civilians in public places in London, Paris, and Brussels, but acting Department of Homeland Security chief Elaine Duke credits the US-led offensive keeping them on the run with preventing further attacks.
But after around 70,000 ISIS fighters have been killed, the group once bent on dying for its cause has begun to surrender en masse.
McGurk reported that ISIS surrendered in “large numbers” after the fall of its Syrian capital of Raqqa.
On Thursday, the Red Cross reported that it had gained access to the families of ISIS fighters in territories they once ruled.
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