US officials are shocked at the “Islamic State’s rapid growth.” Now, the CIA estimates that the Islamic State has somewhere between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters within its ranks. That number may include “some 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria alone, including 2,000 Westerners,” Al Jazeera reported, which noted the estimate is “far more than first thought.”
Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria number around 20,000 to 31,500 — a figure far higher than previously estimated, the Central Intelligence Agency has said.
The new calculation includes some 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria alone, including 2,000 Westerners, a U.S. intelligence official told the AFP news agency on Thursday.
“The number is much higher than a previous estimate of 10,000,” Al Jazeera continues.
Readers of The Long War Journal should not be surprised by the latest CIA estimate. In fact, on June 11, just one day after a large ISIS operation began in Iraq, The Long War Journal reported the following [see LWJ report, ISIS takes control of Bayji, Tikrit in lightning southward advance]:
The scope of the operation, including the territory covered, indicates that tens of thousands of ISIS fighters participated in the recent fighting.
On Aug. 21, in an interview with Roll Call, I noted that the Islamic State could have upwards of 50,000 fighters in its ranks:
According to Roggio, the group is estimated to have anywhere around 50,000 members, thousands of foreign fighters and is more of an army rather than a smaller extremist group.
As time moved on, and the Islamic State held and even expanded its gains in both Iraq and Syria, it was painfully obvious that the group sustains an army that numbers in the tens of thousands of fighters. You just couldn’t come to any other conclusion.
Keep in mind that the Islamic State is actively fighting against two governments, as well as Hezbollah, the Peshmerga, the PKK/YPG, Iraqi militias, the Awakening, Syrian tribes, the Free Syrian Army, the Al Nusrah Front, the Islamic Front, and other groups, and now the US military, in an area the size of a large American state, with millions of people living there. There is no way the Islamic State could simultaneously fight on multiple fronts against numerous enemies with just several thousand fighters.
Despite the size of the Islamic State, the Obama administration has opted to wage a counterterrorism operation against what has clearly become an established military force.