According to the latest estimates by the IHS Conflict Monitor team, Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ lost 12,800 km2 between 1 January and 14 December 2015, a net loss of 14%, and therefore the caliphate controls now about 78,000 km2 .
One of the important ISIS territory losses is the north border zone between Turkey and Syria, in the region of Tal Abyad, which was the group’s main crossing point to the Turkish border from their de-facto capital Raqqa. . This extremist group, which proclaimed the creation of ” an Islamic caliphate ” in June, 2014, suffered several setbacks in Iraq and in Syria, but it committed, on the other hand, a series of spectacular attacks worldwide which made hundreds of deaths (Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Pakistan, Indonesia).
In Syria, the group withdrew from vast territories in the province of Hassaké ( northeast) and from several localities from Aleppo’s province (North).
In Iraq, ISIL lost the control of Baïji town and its important refinery in the province of Salaheddine in October .In November, Kurdish and Yazidi fighters gained control of Sinjar, in Iraq, and of parts of a strategic road between Syria and Iraq . These defeats deprived ISIS of the main highway between Raqqa and Mosul, complicating the transfer of goods and fighters between the two cities.
- Kurds Advance in the North
Islamic State had some of its most significant losses in northern Syria. Kurdish forces, backed by air support from the American-led coalition, regained control of some areas near the Turkish border. ISIS (ISIL) is attacked on several fronts and by various actors, as the Party of the Kurdish democratic Union (PYD)in Hassaké, the democratic Party of the Kurdistan (PDK) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Sinjar , The Syrian army, supported by the Russian strikes, fights ISIS in the East of Aleppo and into the towns such as al-Qaryantaïn and Palmyre in the province of Homs (center) while France and Russia keep bombarding Raqqa
Syria’s Kurds are by far the biggest winners in 2015, expanding territory under their control by 186% to 15,800 km2. They have established control over nearly all of Syria’s traditionally Kurdish areas, and are the largest component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are being nurtured to form a key part of the US ground campaign against the Islamic State in 2016.
But the extremists’ grip on the major cities of Raqqa, in Syria, and Mosul, in Iraq, remains unchallenged. The group also still holds sections of the Syrian border with Turkey.
Nonetheless, ISIS has made some important territory gains this year such as the capture of the historic Syrian town of Palmyra, and its Unesco site which was destroyed by the terrorists, and the city of Ramadi , the provincial capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province.
- ISIS strategy has changed
Besides, in spite of the decrease of its territory, ISIS expands its territory in the Southwest of Syria, near the Lebanese borders. Analysts consider that ISIL wants to spread its fight into Lebanon in order to put Hezbollah in trouble and this might cause a reduce of its force in Syria. The question remains how ISIS will be controlled in Libya.
ISIS has increased its presence in the Libyan Mediterranean city of Sirte, having apparently established its new base there, where it can “generate oil revenue and plan terror attacks” Libya asked the international community, and first of all, Russia, an important country helping the Libyan people to confront terrorism and radicalization, to provide logistical and military support in the fight against terrorism. The Russian response was that they were ready to help any country [in this respect]," Ghawi said after the meeting.
According to Soufan’s group report it has been calculated that between 27,000 and 31,000 people have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State and other violent extremist groups from at least 86 countries.
The increase is evidence that efforts to contain the ﬂow of foreign recruits to extremist groups in Syria and Iraq have had limited impact.
The increase in foreign ﬁghters is not uniform throughout the world, certain regions and countries have seen more signiﬁcant rises than others. The number of foreign ﬁghters from Western Europe has more than doubled since June 2014, while it has remained relatively ﬂat in North America.
Hotbeds of recruitment have emerged scattered within the global influx. Some are small, like the Lisleby district of Fredrikstad in Norway;others are well-established incubators and radiators of extremist behavior, such as Bizerte and Ben Gardane in Tunisia; Derna in Libya; the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia; and the Molenbeek district of Brussels.
- “Secret” Norwegian Report Details ISIS-Turkey Oil Trade As UN Vows To “Cut Off” Terrorist “Funding Sources”
According to a new “secret” report prepared on behalf of the Norwegian foreign ministry by Rystad Energy. According to Dagens Næringsliv , the report shows that “large quantities of oil have been smuggled across the border to Turkey from IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq.” The “oil is sent by tankers via smuggling routes across the border [and] is sold at greatly reduced prices, from 25 to 45 dollars a barrel,” the report says.
Dagens Næringsliv goes on to implicate the same network of traffickers who helped Saddam avoid international sanctions, in helping ISIS export crude and import cash.
Sources: IHS, Nytimes.com, Leparisien.fr, Soufan Group, WSJ.
A look at ISIS territorial gains and losses over the past year. Info graphics courtesy of IHS Conflict Monitor. pic.twitter.com/Nh3Obq8EXj
— The New Syria (@The_New_Syria) 22 Décembre 2015