An analyst claims that Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists — who have killed hundreds of people and injured hundreds more over the last week — underscore a “desperate” jihadist group.
In an interview with USA Today, Daniel Byman, the analyst, who is a professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, noted that the world should expect more “desperate” attacks from the Islamic State.
ISIS is strongly suspected of being behind the attack in Istanbul, Turkey, (45 deaths) and it has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Dhaka, Bangladesh, (22) and Baghdad, Iraq, (at least 200), all of which took place in the last week and have claimed the lives of at least 267 people and injured nearly 446 more.
“The massacres demonstrate that the Islamic State has established cells around the world — and is still capable of heinous attacks despite its recent setbacks on the battlefield [in Iraq and Syria],” notes USA Today.
On June 28, the day of the attack in Istanbul, Turkey, Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, told lawmakers that ISIS in neighboring Iraq and Syria is losing territory, fighters, leaders, and financial resources.
“ISIL and its leaders have retreated to the shadows,” he told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, adding that the terrorist group had not launched the same level of deadly attacks during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the time as they did last year.
Less than a week later, on July 3, a suicide truck bomb ripped through Baghdad, killing an estimated 215 people and injuring at least 176. Ramadan, a period when martyrdom and jihad are coveted by Islamic extremists, was still ongoing. It was the deadliest attack in Baghdad in recent history.
Nevertheless, Byman, who is also a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, told USA Today:
We’ve already seen the number of foreign fighters going to Iraq and Syria decline. From the Islamic State’s point of view, these are desperate attacks. But they are successful in their own right and do indicate that we will see more attempts.
Byman, who was referring to the attacks in Dhaka, Istanbul, and Baghdad indicated that ISIS will increasingly rely on amateurs as it becomes more desperate.
“The Islamic State is losing territory in Iraq and Syria, but it is still a formidable opponent and very dangerous,” added Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and an analyst with the Brookings Institution.
Last week, CIA Director John Brennan told the Council on Foreign Relations that ISIS has many fighters outside of Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS has tens of thousands of individuals that are scattered not just in the Middle East but also to West Africa, to Southeast Asia, and beyond,” declared Brennan.
While the ISIS jihadi footprint may be decreasing in Iraq and Syria, it has expanded its reach to Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sinai, Nigeria, Algeria, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan-Pakistan, noted Obama’s envoy McGurk.
“We currently estimate that ISIL fields 18-22,000 overall fighters in Iraq and Syria, the lowest assessed range since we began conducting rigorous reviews of its manpower,” McGurk told lawmakers. “This is down from a high-end estimate of 33,000 ISIL fighters in 2014. We are also seeing significant reduction in the flow of foreign fighters entering Syria and Iraq each month.”
He also noted that ISIS is losing territory, stressing that the group “has lost 47 percent of its territory in Iraq, and 20 percent in Syria.”
In some of the areas outside Iraq and Syria, the group is flourishing. In Libya alone, the group commands “5,000-8,000,” testified McGurk.
However, USA Today points out, “The Islamic State’s presence in other parts of Asia has also been growing in recent years, though its presence in the Middle East is larger.”