SCORES OF SUICIDE BOMBERS
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.