‘So-called progress’: U.S. admits ISIL is just as strong as when bombing campaign began a year ago

Almost a year after the United States began its multi-billion-dollar military campaign to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the jihadist group shows no signs of weakening, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Its hold on social media and flow of oil revenue means it can draw on a steady stream of recruits and has held almost all its territory, despite losing 10,000 fighters. It has managed to expand into new theatres in Libya, Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and Afghanistan.

“We’ve seen no meaningful degradation in their numbers,” a defence official said, citing estimates that put the group’s strength at 20,000 to 30,000 fighters, the same as when the strikes began last August.

Jessica Stern, a Harvard expert on terrorism and the co-author of Isis: The State of Terror, said the group remained attractive to foreign and local recruits, stemming their losses.

The assessments will be a bitter blow to an administration that has tried to talk up success in Syria and Iraq and suggested ISIL was losing ground. Their military strategy relies on an aerial bombing campaign and a much-derided effort to train local fighters.

While the Pentagon trumpets the number of sorties flown by the U.S.-led coalition since Aug. 8 last year – almost 20,000, at a cost of about U.S.$10 million a day – and the number of targets destroyed – almost 8,000 – analysts say it could still take a decade to drive ISIL from its safe haven.

Full article: ‘So-called progress’: U.S. admits ISIL is just as strong as when bombing campaign began a year ago (National Post)

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