ISIS’s Current Capabilities

By Cat Cronin, Researcher at Talking About Terrorism.


1. After the US pulled troops out of Syria, Turkey become responsible for the thousands of ISIS fighters who remain in the country. The Turkish government claims to be constructing a plan on how to deal with the ISIS detainees in Syria.


2. The US troops leaving Syria will be moved to Iraq, where they will conduct anti-ISIS operations. None of the troops will be returning to the US at this time. The 1,000 troops coming from Syria will join the 5,000 currently stationed in Iraq.


3. The Syrian Democratic Forces have been hosting over 70,00 suspected ISIS members, including at least 10,000 fighters, in camps around the country.


4. US-backed Kurdish forces have been keeping guard of thousands of suspected ISIS fighters in makeshift desert jails. Recently, at least 100 ISIS members escaped, and the US has no plan to deal with the liberated prisoners. Now, the Kurds guarding the jails are threatening to leave as conflict escalates in the area.


5. ISIS prisoner escapes are concerning. When the terrorist group was forming earlier in the decade, it recruited thousands of fighters by breaking people out of prison in Iraq. Many are worried that the organization is returning to this tactic and will grow in size once again.


6. Despite the troop withdrawal, ISIS has remained a top US security priority. The US Department of Defense claims it will continue its Defeat-ISIS Campaign both in the country and in the surrounding region.


7. It is still highly possible that ISIS regroups and becomes a strong organization once again. Currently, the group has been operating in small guerrilla units and has been training its members with insurgency tactics.


8. At the moment, ISIS is mostly active in inhospitable regions of Northern Iraq. The rough terrain makes it challenging for security forces to hold and protect the area.


9. Most active ISIS militants at this time are Iraqis. Few foreigners remain in ISIS because they have more survival challenges—they are not as familiar with the people or the terrain, so they don’t blend in well.


10. Evidence indicates that ISIS is preparing for battle. One of the biggest signs is ISIS leaders have been attempting to re-establish a “firmly-controlled chain of command” that consisted of a 2018 purge of military commanders.

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