ISIS is getting desperate
After a string of victories by Iraqi and Kurdish forces against ISIS over the past few weeks, the rumors started popping up online: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, had been replaced by his Syrian deputy, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani.
The rumors were untrue, but they were the first clear evidence that the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS has actually started to work. The past few weeks have seen Iraqi military victories near Baghdad, and in the Diyala, Salahuddin, and Ninevah provinces to the east and north of the city.
Coalition airstrikes have significantly increased and improved over the past two weeks. In Mosul alone, two separate sources confirmed that no fewer than 150 ISIS fighters were killed in the last 10 days of October and more were injured in air raids. In retribution, ISIS arrested eight Iraqi reporters in Mosul and dozens of Iraqi army and police officers, fearing that they were planning to join a newly formed Arab Sunni force in Kurdistan aiming to recapture Mosul.
Since the U.S.-led air campaign began, at least 1,000 ISIS fighters have been killed by the air bombardment, Iraqi security analyst Hisham al-Hashimi said. The ISIS military commander of Nineveh province, Bashar al-Jarjari, and his counterpart in Salahuddin province, Ala' al-Mashhadani, as well as ISIS leaders in Fallujah and Ramadi provinces in the south and religious leader Mustafa al-Zaidi were among those killed in air raids and ground fighting.
Other signs of progress include a decline in the number of foreign ISIS fighters who had been sneaking into Syria from Turkey, from an average of 50 fighters a day to an estimated five per day. ISIS's recruiting campaign has also been damaged by the removal of more than 180,000 ISIS Twitter accounts and YouTube videos from the internet. ISIS has also suffered from self-imposed communication problems due to a ban it issued on using smartphone applications because it feared U.S. surveillance.
A turning point
With defeats on all these fronts and sagging recruitment, ISIS is showing signs of desperation. This week the jihadists targeted a Sunni tribe that had fought ISIS for months to protect the town of Hit in al-Anbar province, which fell to ISIS last month. In a barbaric attack, ISIS fighters executed more than 300 members of the Albu Nimir tribe, including 50 women and children whose bodies were dumped in a well.