IHS Jane’s says the jihadists control 73,440 square kilometers (28,360 square miles) of ground as of March 14, an area equivalent to around half the size of England
LONDON, United Kingdom (Mar. 18, 2016) — The Islamic State (ISIS) group has lost 22% of the territory it held at the start of 2015, military analysts IHS Jane’s said Wednesday, March 16, as US and Russian air strikes have helped the jihadists’ opponents advance.
ISIS controls swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria but lost 14% of it last year and a further 8% this year, according to the IHS Conflict Monitor.
IHS Jane’s said the jihadists controlled 73,440 square kilometers (28,360 square miles) of ground as of Monday, March 14, an area equivalent to around half the size of England.
The Syrian government has made gains in the west of the country and is now 5 kilometers outside the ancient city of Palmyra, which was overrun by ISIS fighters in mid-2015.
“The Islamic State is increasingly isolated, and being perceived as in decline,” said IHS senior analyst Columb Strack.
He said the group’s reversal of fortunes “plays into the hands” of its main rival, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate the Al-Nusra Front.
“Isolation and further military defeats will make it harder for the Islamic State to attract new recruits to Syria from the pool of foreign jihadis,” said Strack.
Following the loss of the strategically important town of Tal Abyad on Syria’s border with Turkey last year, IHS began to register signs that ISIS was struggling financially, it said.
Financial difficulties including tax hikes, increases in the cost of ISIS-run public services such as rubbish collection and security, and cuts of up to 50% in fighters’ salaries have been further exacerbated by US-led and Russian air strikes on their sources of oil revenue, said IHS.
Russia announced Monday it would begin withdrawing its forces from Syria, saying its 5-month bombing campaign had helped “radically change the situation in the fight against terrorism”.
In an assessment in January, US colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the international coalition which carries out daily air raids against ISIS, said the group had lost about 40% of the territory it controlled in Iraq.
The group is on the rise in Libya, having significantly expanded its area of control in the troubled country, according to United Nations experts. It holds the coastal city of Sirte and has gained recruits from sub-Saharan Africa.
The group also has a toehold in Yemen, experts say.