The PJ Tatler

CIA: Islamic State Now Has About 31,500 Fighters

Drudge is fronting this major story from CNN. The thrust: ISIS is even bigger than previously believed.

A CIA assessment puts the number of ISIS fighters at possibly more than three times the previous estimates.

The terror group that calls itself the Islamic State “can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria,” a CIA spokesman told CNN on Thursday.

Analysts and U.S. officials initially estimated there were as many as 10,000 fighters, including those who were freed from prisons by ISIS, and Sunni loyalists who have joined the fight as the group advanced across Iraq.

“This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity and additional intelligence,” the spokesman said.

To put that into some perspective, a division in the US military ranges from 10,000 to 18,000. So ISIS’ numbers equal a couple of US divisions, or a corps. With the proper combined arms strategy and decisive command, the US military could wipe ISIS off the battlefield fairly quickly.

That would require a decision to put those troops in the field to do the job, of course.

ISIS doesn’t respect any secular national boundaries, and it recruits globally. Its recruitment efforts are slick and apparently effective.

A simple way to assess the strategy that President Obama outlined Wednesday is to ask, will it kill ISIS fighters faster than the group is able to recruit new ones? So far, the answer is obviously no. Their numbers may be triple the previous estimate.

Since the president touted Yemen and Somalia as models of effective counterterrorism, have we been able to kill al Qaeda and al-Shabab recruits in those countries faster than the groups find new recruits?

It doesn’t seem likely, does it? We drone kill terrorist leaders in both countries with some regularity, but the groups survive, elevate new leaders, and go on holding territory and staging attacks — and recruiting new terrorists.