The last few days have seen both the vulnerability and the resilience of ISIS as it struggles to hold on to territory in Syria and Iraq.
But a new analysis of the battlefield shows that territory held by ISIS has shrunk 12% this year, with losses in both western Iraq and northern Syria.
Over the weekend, Iraqi forces regained control of Al-Qayyarah air-base, 75 kilometers (about 50 miles) south of the city of Mosul. ISIS seized the base two years ago when its fighters swept south to the edge of Baghdad.
If Iraq’s military can consolidate control of the base, it would provide a valuable launching pad for the offensive to expel ISIS from Mosul. Al-Qayyarah is one of the largest airbases in Iraq.
But ISIS continues to demonstrate resilience and versatility. Its fighters are clinging on to positions inside the Syrian town of Manbij, a critical way point between Raqqa — the group’s administrative headquarters — and the Turkish border.
Further south, it shot down a Russian helicopter near Palmyra, even though it lost control of the city in March.
The new IHS Conflict Monitor map shows that ISIS controls roughly 68,300 square kilometers (26,370 square miles) of Iraq and Syria — about the size of the Republic of Ireland. That compares to 78,000 square kilometers (30,116 square miles) at the beginning of the year.
Its main losses have been in Iraq’s western Anbar province, including the city of Fallujah, and in northern Syria, where both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and a rebel alliance of Kurds and Arab factions are closing in on Raqqa.
By: Tim Lister