ISIS strongholds are collapsing, but the group still remains

Abdalaziz Alhamza “RBSS”

In 2015, the total area controlled by ISIS in both Iraq and Syria was estimated to be about 90 thousand square kilometers. Since the beginning of military campaigns to dismantle the terrorist group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has lost an estimated 20 thousand square kilometers of land per year. Today, the area controlled by ISIS has dropped down to approximately 35 thousand kilometers.

ISIS losses have not been limited to the amount of land controlled. Drastic decreases in land area occupied have been accompanied also by significant economic losses. In 2015, the group’s income garnered through the sale of oil was estimated to be around 80 million US dollars. But as of earlier this month the group’s income has dropped significantly down to only 16 million US dollars.

The ongoing battles have also shown a remarkable weakness in the terrorist group’s defense capabilities. Both in Iraq and in Syria, confrontations against attacking forces such as the Iraqi Army, the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Peshmerga, and the SDF have confirmed that ISIS continues to rely heavily on rather primitive military techniques which are difficult to sustain against more advanced and organized forces.

However, the attacking forces have suffered considerable material losses in these battles that far exceed losses sustained by ISIS. The attacking forces are using a “Scorched-Earth” strategy that utilizes indiscriminate aerial bombardment across ISIS occupied lands in order to urge terrorist fighters to withdrawal from their positions. This strategy has incurred both heavy material and human losses.

The ongoing battles have also shown that the attacking forces lacked any real emergency plans to evacuate civilians from the ISIS strongholds in both Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq. As the fighting has escalated, civilians fleeing these two cities have been gathering in nearby camps lacking basic amenities such as healthcare, clean drinking water, and food. The camps around Raqqa have been funded in a complete vacuum of humanitarian organization support – the only source of funding being from civilian donations

According to reliable field sources inside the camps, several ISIS leaders have abandoned the terrorist group completely and are now working with the so-called ‘YPG anti-terrorism forces’ in order to help them identify ISIS fighters/supporters who may be hiding among legitimate displaced persons.

media activist from the city of Raqqa, student at the Faculty of Law at the University of the Euphrates. Director of the Media Office of Raqqa, founding member of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently", founding member of the documentary project of "Sound and Picture". I work in documenting violations committed by Assad's regime and ISIS group and extremist organizations inside the city of Raqqa, as I work in programming, design and visual media. I hold a certificate of coach in digital security, and a certificate of journalist coach, and a certificate in documenting violations against human rights, and a certificate in electronic advocacy. I underwent a training under the supervision of "Cyber-Arabs" in collaboration with the Institute for War and Peace "IWPR", about the management of electronic websites and leadership of advocacy campaigns, and a training of press photography under the supervision of the photojournalist "Peter Hove Olesen".