From Russia with Love: How Much Territory ISIS lost in 2015*
By Pamela Engel
In the year after ISIS rampaged across the Middle East in a bid to seize territory and establish a self-declared Islamic “caliphate,” the terrorist group continued to be a major threat to the world, pulling off sophisticated attacks and recruiting thousands more people to its cause.
But though concerns continue to grow over how the U.S. handles the threat of terrorism, ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, and Daesh — has been losing ground where its core base of support lies, according to defence analysts at the IHS Conflict Monitor.
IHS estimates that ISIS has lost 14% of its territory since January. Some of the areas that have been retaken from the group were crucial to the its operations — including the Syrian border-crossing town of Tal Abyad, which connected ISIS’s de-facto capital of Raqqa with Turkey.
ISIS has also lost a stretch of highway that connected Raqqa to its largest Iraqi holding, the city of Mosul.
In Iraq, the group lost Tikrit and the Baiji oil refinery. But though Iraqi forces were successful in retaking Tikrit, it’s been a struggle for them to allow displaced locals to return to their homes.
And while ISIS lost some significant territory this year, the group also made some significant gains. It seized the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the Syrian city of Palmyra in a “near-simultaneous offensive” in May, IHS notes. But these gains came at the expense of ISIS’s territory in northern Syria, much of which was lost to Kurdish fighters. It left those areas less protected as they redeployed fighters to Ramadi and Palmyra.
“This indicates that the Islamic State was overstretched, and also that holding Kurdish territory is considered to be of lesser importance than expelling the Syrian and Iraqi governments from traditionally Sunni lands” like Ramadi, Columb Strack, senior IHS Middle East analyst, wrote.
Here’s a map of where ISIS has lost territory this year: