White House envoy McGurk reports major progress against IS on all fronts

WASHINGTON, June 10 (KUNA) — Major progress against the so-called Islamic State (IS) has occurred on all fronts, the special presidential envoy to counter IS said during a White House briefing on Friday. The morale within IS, compared to four or five months ago, is plummeting, said Brett McGurk.
“We are seeing them execute their own fighters on the battlefield, we are seeing them unable to move fighters around the battlefield, and we are seeing the recruits fall off precipitously,” he said. IS has not had a successful offensive operation, particularly in Iraq, in more than a year, and it has lost about 50 percent of its territory, including about 20 percent of its territory in Syria, “and it is continuing to shrink,” McGurk said.
The border with Turkey is no longer accessible to IS, and “very significant” towns in Iraq — such as Tikrit, Ramadi, Rutbah and parts of Western Anbar Province — are no longer accessible to the group, he said.
All the road connections between Raqqa and Mosul have been cut off, he noted.
In the summer of 2014, IS had as many as 31,000 fighters, and today that number is between 19,000 and 25,000, “and it is continuing to shrink quite rapidly,” McGurk said.
“Their ability to recruit and to move foreign fighters around the world, which is very important to protect all of our homelands, is also much more difficult,” he said.
In working with the anti-IS coalition, 45 countries have enacted laws to restrict the ability of foreign terrorist fighters to travel through their territory, McGurk said.
There are about 4,000 IS foreign fighter profiles in the Interpol database — “a 400 percent increase from when we started this in the fall of 2014,” he said. “It is much harder for these guys to travel and move around.” “We think we have cut off entirely their revenue that is coming from the outside,” McGurk said.
“They rely entirely on self-generation, oil, oil trade, sale of antiquities. And we have systematically gone about with very good intelligence work throughout our whole of government effort to target that. They have cut their salaries in half.” “When we started this, they controlled almost the entire Syrian border with Turkey,” he noted.
“It is now down to about a 98-kilometer stretch of territory, and that is shrinking rapidly, particularly with an ongoing effort in Manbij.” IS is not nearly as capable, McGurk said, “and we are killing one of their senior or mid-level leaders once every three days now. We have taken out about 100 just over the last few months alone, and this is because of the intelligence that we are able to gather from everything that we are doing.” IS propaganda “is not what it was before,” he said. “We have worked very closely throughout the global coalition to make sure that we get this stuff off twitter, off Facebook, off YouTube. We worked very closely with Facebook and twitter. Twitter has taken down about 125 pro-IS handles. For every one on Twitter now, there is about six counter-IS handles countering their messaging every day.” IS cohesion is shrinking, McGurk said. “Their connections between the heart of their so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq to their so-called affiliates is drying up and shriveling up,” he added.
In Libya, a government backed by the United Nations “is now on the ground in Tripoli,” McGurk said. “Of course, it is working with local forces loyal to the government, which are now starting to push into the heart of what IS thought was a stronghold in Sirte, and they are making some real progress.” (end) rm.ibi