I.S. RUNNING OUT OF FIGHTERS
45,000 killed by US-led coalition air strikes up to August last year
THE United States-led coalition effort against Islamic State (IS) is killing the group’s fighters more quickly than it can replace them, a senior British general said on Tuesday, with more than 45,000 killed by coalition air strikes up to August last year.
Major-General Rupert Jones, deputy commander for the Combined Joint Task Force coalition said: “The enemy cannot sustain the attrition that they are suffering and therefore they lose terrain, they lose battles.”
Last month, the top American commander in Iraq, LieutenantGeneral Stephen Townsend, said: “The inevitability of their destruction just becomes really a matter of time,” he said, adding that the group’s leadership was now focused on little more than survival.
The coalition estimates that the number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria is at its lowest level in more than 2.5 years, with the group having lost 62 per cent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and 30 per cent in Syria.
Jones said the number of foreign fighters travelling to join IS had dropped by between 75 and 90 per cent, both due to it being harder to get in and out of Iraq and Syria, and because the reality of doing so had been exposed as unappealing.
“The big idea that IS was putting out there, the kind of glamour... has been exposed for what it is. It is a lie,” he said.
“They recognise that what you are actually signing yourself up to is going to live under a brutal regime.”
He said IS had refocused its attention on radicalising people outside Iraq and Syria to carry out attacks locally.
The coalition estimates that IS activity on Twitter has fallen by 45 per cent since 2014, with 360,000 of the group’s Twitter accounts suspended, and the lifespan of an IS-linked social media account reduced to less than two days.
Yesterday, US-backed Iraqi army units took control of the last major road out of western Mosul, trapping the militants in a dwindling area within the city.
The army’s 9th Armoured Division was within 1km of Mosul’s Syria Gate, the northwestern entrance of the city, a general from the unit said by telephone.
“We effectively control the road, it is in our sight,” he said.
The elite Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service is trying to persuade men fleeing the fighting in Mosul to admit any affiliation with IS and turn in collaborators.
“They made you grow your beards, they banned cigarettes, they controlled you,” said Second Lieutenant Abdullah Qassem Abdullah to around 70 men, sitting in rows in the dust in a village south of Mosul.
“Islam... is about forgiveness, not about killing and fighting. So all of you know what the difference is between IS and Islam.”
Another officer, who declined to give his name, addresses the group: “If you know someone who pledged allegiance or who worked with IS, don’t be afraid. IS is finished.”
He beckons a young man in a tracksuit to stand up and come over.
“Look at this man, he came and he admitted to me that he pledged allegiance, and he was with them for 10 days, and nothing will happen to him,” he said, his arms around the shoulders of the young man, whose expression is a mixture of embarrassment and fear.
The officer keeps up his pitch, warning that an admission or discovery of guilt later will not be so kindly received.
And then a man stands up, clutching a sack of belongings, and walks out of the crowd.
“I pledged allegiance, I worked with them in Qayyarah,” he said, referring to an area south of Mosul.
“But I swear it was only for 23 days, then I had a break and I left and never went back to them.”
Then another joins him, dressed in a hat and a leather jacket.
And a third follows, wearing a tracksuit and avoiding eye contact as he makes his way up to the officer at the front, who smiles.
“You see, nothing will happen. You pledged allegiance, you worked with them for a week, a month, three months. It’s nothing. What we need is information,” he said.
“We need to finish with IS, they are like a cancer. If it persists, it will consume the body.”
Smoke rising after an air strike in the district of al-Mamoun in Mosul, Iraq, yesterday.