The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has lost about 14 percent of its territory in 2015, while Syria’s Kurds have almost tripled theirs, think-tank IHS Jane’s has said. The development will be seen as a blow to the group given its stated aim to capture and hold territory to expand its so-called “caliphate”, where it imposes its version of Islamic law.
The losses of ISIL include the strategically important town of Tal Abyad on Syria’s border with Turkey, the Iraqi city of Tikrit, and Iraq’s Baiji refinery. Other big losses for the group include a stretch of highway between its Syrian stronghold Raqqa and Mosul in northern Iraq, complicating supply lines.
IHS Jane’s said the group’s territory had shrunk 12,800 square kilometres to 78,000 square kilometres between the start of the year and December 14.
“We had already seen a negative financial impact on the Islamic State [ISIL] due to the loss of control of the Tal Abyad border crossing prior to the recent intensification of air strikes against the group’s oil production capacity,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst with the US think-tank.
However, ISIL has made some high-profile gains during the year, including the historic Syrian town of Palmyra and the city centre of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province.