Number of ISIS Militants in Syria Higher Than Reported

ICC Note: It is estimated that at least twice as many ISIS militants, up to six thousand, are active inside Syria than what has been previously reported. This comes at a time when the Syrian regime has increased calls for refugees to return. Many are reluctant, especially Christians. ISIS has marked Christians out for genocide and their heavy presence in Syria remains a threat to believers.       

08/09/2018 Syria (al-Monitor) –  The Pentagon has more Islamic State fighters left to defeat in Syria than it has previously acknowledged, according to a US government watchdog.

As US-backed forces begin targeting IS remnants near the Iraqi border, as many as 4,000 to 6,000 IS fighters remain in their former stronghold in northeastern Syria, a joint inspector general report to Congress on Monday revealed.

The figure, attributed to a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assessment, would accord IS significantly more troop strength than the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged.

Pentagon officials estimated in December last year that as many as 2,000 IS fighters remained in Syria. The coalition has since stopped providing public estimates for IS remnants, but has not given a reason for halting estimates, even as it enters the final stage of so-called Operation Roundup that is aimed at clearing the city of Hajin near the border, where three divisions of Iraqi troops are holding a blocking position.

Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said DIA’s figure “speaks for itself” and in response to a question from Al-Monitor the Pentagon did not provide a reason for halting public estimates of IS fighters. US-led coalition spokesman Col. Thomas Veale told reporters in June that he had “nothing to add” to previous estimates that had ranged between 1,000 to 3,000 militants in Syria.

But the DIA assessment also suggests there are more IS fighters in Syria outside the northeast, suggesting the group may have migrated to other parts of the country as it faced bombardment from US troops, who are mostly stationed in the northeast. The Defense Department told the inspector general that as many as 13,100 to 14,500 IS fighters were left in the rest of the country, where the United States has a limited presence.

Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad began advancing into the IS-controlled desert region of Suwayda this week, where the militant group has recently targeted the Druze minority in a series of suicide bomb attacks. The Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units — known as the YPG — which receive US weapons and air support, said in a statement this week that it would be ready to assist the surrounded Druze cities in the area.

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