ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Joint Operations Command of Iraq on Sunday rejected the Pentagon’s recent estimate that there are approximately 14,000 to 18,000 Islamic State militants still in Iraq and Syria, stating the figure was “greatly exaggerated.”
The Pentagon Inspector General last Tuesday presented a report to Congress claiming the Islamic State was “growing again in power” in Syria and Iraq, with around 14,000 to 18,000 available militants.
“The Pentagon's report on the presence of more than 14,000 Da’esh [ISIS] militants in the desert bordering areas of Iraq and Syria is greatly exaggerated,” a spokesperson for the Joint Operations Command, Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool told Iraqi news agency Malouma.
“We disagree with a lot of things mentioned in the Pentagon report,” he added. “ISIS elements present in those areas do not exceed dozens [of people] and are deployed in the form of small groups of three to five militants.”
Rasool noted movements of Islamic State remnants in the desert bordering areas are defensive, and not actual offensives yet.”
“The military campaign ‘Will of Victory’ [carried out by Iraqi security forces] in the first, second and third stages destroyed many of their hosts and hideouts, and killed dozens of the militants,” the spokesperson argued.
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He alost said military campaigns would continue in the form of smaller-scale operations until the elimination of all militants of the organization and their sleeper cells in Iraq.
The quarterly report of the US Department of Defense to Congress states that “ISIS continued its transition from a territory-holding force to an insurgency in Syria, and it intensified its insurgency in Iraq.”
The Inspector General’s report on “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the official name of the US-led military campaign against the Islamic State. The report highlights the increasing activity of the terrorist group in both Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS is able to operate as an insurgency in Iraq and Syria, in part because the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) remain unable to sustain long-term operations against ISIS militants,” the IG report states.
It also warns, “Despite losing its territorial ‘caliphate,’ the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq.”
Iraq declared military victory against the jihadist group in December 2017, but the terrorist group continues to launch insurgency attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings in the country.
Editing by Nadia Riva