On July 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Mosul’s liberation. But after nine difficult months of warfare to take back the city where the jihadists proclaimed its caliphate three years ago, the fight isn’t over yet.
Three Iraq intelligence and defense officials told The Associate Press that there are still thousands of ISIS militants and supporters roaming free.
The officials who spoke with the AP remain anonymous because they supposedly do not have authorization to speak to the press.
They claim that approximately 4,000 fighters and 3,000 supporters are still in Iraq, regardless of the collapse of Mosul. All of them were employed by the terrorist organization and received salaries.
Syria’s numbers are higher; an estimated 7,000 fighters and 5,000 supporters remain.
As of last summer, the Pentagon indicated that in Iraq and Syria the number of ISIS fighters was dramatically reduced. The military campaigns had removed about 45,000 individuals from the battlefield, dropping the number of militants down to 15,000.
Going forward, the territorial losses don’t indicate that the world is any more safe now than it was yesterday against radical Islamic terrorism. Last week the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, explained that there could still be a small number of relatively skilled fighters that are capable of moving out of the area and executing attacks on the West or in their homeland.
And killing the leader of the terrorist organization, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, isn’t a top priority. Recent reports have stated that al-Baghdadi was killed, but the anonymous officials reportedly told The AP that he is in fact alive.
One stated that if al-Baghdadi was found and killed now, they “will be reviving ISIS.”
The goal is to first take out those who could be potential successors to the current ISIS leader because they “don’t want to give them a window for a comeback.”
“We want to cripple the group in order to end it.”