The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The State De­part­ment on Mon­day re­leased de­tails of its most re­cent meet­ing of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of what it calls the Global Coali­tion to Counter ISIL — the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group.

While trum­pet­ing progress in weak­en­ing the group, the de­part­ment ac­knowl­edged that the al Qaeda off­shoot, also known as ISIS, con­tin­ues to re­cruit large num­bers of sui­cide bombers for its at­tacks.

Is­lamic State “con­tin­ues to pro­duce scores of sui­cide bombers ev­ery month and it is poised to fight un­til the death in the ter­ri­tory that it con­tin­ues to hold,” the de­part­ment said in a read­out of the lat­est meet­ing with am­bas­sadors and of­fi­cials from 68 coun­tries. Still, coali­tion mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment ef­forts have in­flicted what the State De­part­ment called a “sig­nif­i­cant degra­da­tion to ISIL’s global net­work.”

The point man to counter the Is­lamic State is Brett McGurk, who out­lined progress of the global cam­paign on Mon­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. McGurk, Pres­i­dent Obama’s spe­cial en­voy to the coali­tion, lo­cal ground forces, backed by coali­tion forces, have re­taken 56 per­cent of the ter­ri­tory held by the Is­lamic State since 2014 in Iraq and 27 per­cent of its ter­ri­tory in Syria. The flow of for­eign fight­ers into Syria and Iraq has dropped from around 1,000 per month in 2014 to about 500 a month in 2015, and to a “neg­li­gi­ble” level to­day.

The drop in in­com­ing fight­ers means the group will be un­able to re­plen­ish its in­sur­gents or re­in­force po­si­tions in ter­ri­tory it holds.

On fund­ing, joint in­tel­li­gence and mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions cut the Is­lamic State’s abil­ity to gen­er­ate rev­enue and fund op­er­a­tions. “Coali­tion airstrikes have tar­geted its oil and gas pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, the trucks that have moved oil and gas to con­sumers, and its cash stor­age sites that hold ISIL’s fi­nan­cial re­serves,” the de­part­ment’s state­ment said. “Its ac­cess to the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial sys­tem and out­side fund­ing has also been cut. This pres­sure has led ISIL to slash pay­ments to its fight­ers and levy ex­tor­tion­ist taxes upon the pop­u­la­tion it seeks to con­trol.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, tighter bor­der con­trols have lim­ited the abil­ity of Is­lamic State fight­ers to move eas­ily to ar­eas out­side Syria and Iraq where they could con­duct at­tacks in Europe, the United States and else­where.

A key suc­cess was the re­cent lib­er­a­tion of the north­ern Syr­ian town of Man­bij on the Turk­ish bor­der, which has served as a hub for for­eign ter­ror­ist travel and op­er­a­tional plot­ting. The cap­ture of Man­bij pro­duced what the de­part­ment called “a trea­sure trove of in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion.”

The coali­tion also con­tin­ues to tar­get Is­lamic State lead­ers, who are be­ing killed at an in­creas­ing rate. “We in­tend to dra­mat­i­cally ac­cel­er­ate this pres­sure over the com­ing months,” the state­ment said. The killings have re­moved nearly all of the deputies to Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi. They in­clude the chief of ex­ter­nal op­er­a­tions and min­is­ters of war, fi­nance and pro­pa­ganda.

“And it is a mat­ter of time be­fore Bagh­dadi meets the same fate,” the state­ment said, adding that Is­lamic State mil­i­tary plan­ners of for­eign ter­ror­ist at­tacks have been hit with drone and air­craft strikes.

In­tel­li­gence sources have said al-Bagh­dadi was tar­geted sev­eral times in the past two years but that strikes were called off to avoid col­lat­eral dam­age.

On the so­cial me­dia front, Twit­ter has blocked nearly 400,000 ac­counts re­lated to the Is­lamic State in the past year, and re­cruit­ing ef­forts have been un­der­mined by mil­i­tary gains against the group.

The coali­tion, how­ever, re­mains un­able to con­duct coun­teride­o­log­i­cal op­er­a­tions against the Is­lamic State based on re­stric­tions im­posed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that pre­vent ad­dress­ing the root cause of the ter­ror­ism — rad­i­cal Is­lamic doc­trine.

“While we con­tinue to make sig­nif­i­cant gains against this bar­baric en­emy, we ac­knowl­edge that this will be a long-term fight that re­quires in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion,” the state­ment said.

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