It has been estimated that there are 20,000 to 30,000 Islamic State militants still in Syria and Iraq, according to the U.N.’s latest report. The group is standing on the brink of collapse as their strongholds have been lost and the influx of recruits has almost dwindled to nothing. The U.N. report estimated that in Afghanistan and Libya there are 3,000-4,000 members; however, in Iraq and Syria, there are “between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals, roughly equally distributed between the two countries. Among these is still a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters.” The U.N.’s sanctions monitoring team contributes in-depth reports on ISIS and Al-Qaeda bi-annually to the U.N. Security Council.
The Islamic State controlled vast expanses of Syria and Iraq at one point, now very little remains of the violent caliphate. ISIS lost the last of its strongholds last year when Syrian Democratic Forces, Peshmerga, and Iraqi Army supported by coalition forces took the cities of Mosul and Raqqa back. Both cities were considered to be the capitals of the caliphate in the respective regions. By early 2018, the Islamic State was limited to minor sections of land in Syria despite UN reports claiming the group “showed greater resilience” in that region. The report also said that ISIS was “still able to mount attacks inside Syrian territory. It does not fully control any territory in Iraq, but it remains active through sleeper cells.” The sleeper cells are still operating throughout both countries but to little effect, as local security forces continuously strive to close the gap.
Despite these crushing defeats, the U.N. report noted that the amount of foreign fighters departing the Islamic State’s ranks “remains lower than expected.” However, a great deal of these members have chosen to relocate geographically. The U.N. stated that “ significant numbers have made their way to Afghanistan.” The Islamic State has around 3,500-4,500 members residing in Afghanistan, and their ranks are growing according to the U.N. That being said, new fighter recruitment “has essentially come to a halt,” and the current ranks are composed almost entirely of veteran fighters. Financially ISIS is struggling as well; their reserves have been estimated to be “in the low hundreds of millions” of U.S. dollars since they have lost almost all of the oil field they once used to secure income. The Islamic State is on their last leg, and the world is closing in wherever they can to crush them.
Featured image: In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, Demonstrators chant pro-al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as they carry al-Qaida flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Germany’s federal criminal police said Thursday, March 10, 2016, they are in possession of files containing personal data on members of the extremist Islamic State group and believe them to be authentic. | AP Photo, File