The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has lost an estimated 70 percent of the territory it held in Iraq and Syria at the beginning of 2015, courtesy of ongoing efforts by the U.S.-led coalition and its local allies, the U.S. special presidential envoy for the alliance against the terrorist group has revealed.
In the besieged ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria, local forces backed by the U.S.-led alliance have already recaptured 30 percent of the city, according to Brett McGurk, the special U.S. presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the terrorist group.
In January 2015, six months after it declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, ISIS controlled 90,800 square kilometers (35,000 square miles), reported the London-based defense research firm IHS Markit.
McGurk recently revealed that alliance-backed local forces had cleared more than 65,000 square kilometers (25,000 square miles) of territory in Iraq in Syria.
That means ISIS potentially holds about 30 percent (10,000 square miles) of the land it controlled at the beginning of 2015 when the so-called caliphate began to crumble.
Referring to the cleared territory last week, McGurk, said, “ISIS has not reclaimed any of this ground. We have freed over 4 million people who had been living under ISIS in 2014, and most importantly, we’ve helped set the conditions for people to return to their homes.”
“In Iraq alone, nearly 2 million people who fled ISIS have since returned to their homes to restore life to their communities once controlled by these terrorists,” he continued. “That rate of returns in a post-conflict environment is unprecedented historically, and it’s testament to what we have done as a coalition by working together.”
The U.S.-led coalition began combating ISIS in mid-2014 around the time the group reached its peak.
Iraqi forces and its allies, supported by the U.S.-led coalition, recently liberated Mosul, the ISIS capital in Iraq.
Currently, coalition-backed local troops, namely the Arab-Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are fighting to push the jihadist group from Raqqa, its capital in Syria.
On Thursday, McGurk revealed on Twitter that coalition-backed Syrian forces had already cleared 30 percent of the city:
#Raqqa update: #ISIS terrorists surrounded & besieged. City 30 percent cleared (23 sq/kms in last week). #SDF advancing from 4 directions.
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) July 20, 2017
Kim Dozier, a global analyst and contribution writer for the Daily Beast, highlighted McGurk’s remarks about the cleared territory during a panel discussion at the ongoing 2017 Aspen Security Forum.
McGurk was supposed to attend but was held back in Washington by members of Congress.
Dozier quoted the White House official at the beginning of the discussion, titled, “Putting Humpty-Dumpty Together Again: Is Iraq Finally Winning the War Against ISIS?”
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