Reuters reports: Islamic State’s defeat in Kobani and other recent setbacks in Syria suggest the group is under strain but far from collapse in the Syrian half of its self-declared caliphate.
Islamic State’s high-profile defeat by Kurdish militia backed by U.S.-led air strikes capped a four-month battle that cost Islamic State 2,000 of its fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war.
Further from the spotlight, Islamic State has also lost ground to Syrian government and Syrian Kurdish forces elsewhere. Its foes have noted unusual signs of disorganization in its ranks, while reports of forced conscription may indicate a manpower problem as the group wages war in both Syria and Iraq.
There is a long way to go before the tide turns decisively against the group in Syria, where it has faced less military pressure than in Iraq. Islamic State still has a firm grip over its Syrian stronghold in Raqqa province and territory stretching all the way to the other half of its caliphate in Iraq.
The group faces no serious challenge to its rule over those Sunni Arab areas, where it has violently crushed all opposition.
It may yet respond to the Kobani defeat by opening new fronts in Syria. And its capacity to wage psychological warfare was amply demonstrated by this week’s video showing the group burning to death a captive Jordanian pilot.
Yet the Kobani defeat marks the first significant setback for Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria since the rapid expansion of its territorial grip there last year following its capture of Iraqi city of Mosul in June. [Continue reading…]