Contrary to the US intelligence community assessments that ISIL’s momentum has been grounded, on-the-ground intelligence sources have confirmed that ISIL has gained more territories since the US-led coalition launched a military campaign against the terror organization. A third of Syria is currently under ISIL’s control, and the group has managed to gain more grounds in Iraq. However, ISIL has been definitely defeated in Kobane – the strategic Syrian border town – largely due to unswerving coalition airstrikes on ISIL targets within the region. Other than that, the core fighting force of ISIL is still relatively unscathed.
Over 800 airstrikes (costing over $600 million) coupled with coordinated allied ground offensive have not been able to cause any significant ground losses for ISIL in Syria. The group has even captured rural areas in both Iraq and Syria; and ISIL plans to use these areas as conduits for launching offensives on major cities.
Strangely, ISIL has been able to capture substantial swathes of territories previously held by rival Syrian rebel groups despite the support these rebels have received from the coalition. The terror group has also decimated various rebel formations during combat engagements in Syria’s rebel held territories. This has enabled ISIL to govern more areas and consequently place more people (approximately two million more people) under its unorthodox rule.
Since the start of the coalition airstrikes in August 2014; ISIL has been able to capture significant swathes of land in Homs desert, Northern Aleppo, al Qalamoun, southern Damascus and eastern Homs.
The failure to contain ISIL advance has been blamed on the strategy – used by coalition – of targeting the leadership and mid-level commanders which has done little to degrade the military capabilities of ISIL.
Lack of significant battlefield successes has compelled the US defense establishment to conflate the military campaigns in Iraq and Syria. When queried for tangible success, US military would point to Iraq and Kobane – the Syrian town. Nonetheless, the coalition success in Iraq is largely due to coordinated offensives conducted by the Shiite alliance made up of Shiite militiamen, Iraqi army (most of the soldiers are Shiites) and Hezbollah fighters all under the guidance of Iranian political and military officers. This fact points to cooperation between Iran and US in the fight against ISIL.