Tough times for ISIS, seeks to regroup
29 January 2015, Nirapad News: It’s been a tough month for the “Islamic State.” Its fighters were finally driven out of the Syrian border town of Kobani after more than 100 days of fighting against Kurdish militia; Iraqi government forces pushed ISIS back in Diyala province; the city of Mosul — still under ISIS control — is beginning to look vulnerable. And airstrikes have taken a toll on the group’s infrastructure and field commanders.
Its ability to win the release of a jailed jihadist in Jordan or the ability of its followers in Libya to attack a Tripoli hotel may provide brief propaganda boons, but they don’t affect the fundamentals on the ground. Nor will its attempts to export terror to Europe.
But lest anyone declare victory, predictions of ISIS’ demise are wildly optimistic. ISIS still controls some 50,000 square kilometers of Iraq as well as up to 30% of Syrian territory and at least 10% of its population. To the west of Baghdad, it is still on the offensive in Anbar, and recently raided checkpoints on the Iraqi-Saudi border. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said last week: “We’re only six to seven months into this thing; this is going to be a long struggle.”
A senior official at the U.S. State Department echoed Kirby’s line this week, saying ISIS’ expulsion from Kobani is part of the “early phase of a multi-year campaign.” ISIS is “a very adaptive organization,” the official said — and terms like “turning point” were to be avoided.
Even so, there’s quite a contrast between September, when U.S. officials said the fall of Kobani to ISIS seemed inevitable, and Kurds celebrating on the city’s streets this week. ISIS chose Kobani as a symbol of its virility, even sending hostage John Cantile there to make a video about the group’s inevitable victory. Kobani was a recruitment poster in ISIS’ efforts to draw more foreign fighters to the Caliphate.
ISIS is finding the job of controlling much harder than that of attacking. It has needed an expensive and labor-intensive mix of coercion, intimidation and policing to run Mosul, where the Iraqi government still pays the bulk of state employees’ salaries.
Under pressure on several fronts, Soltvedt says “ISIS now has to think very carefully about where it puts its forces”.