CIA: Here's How Many Fighters ISIS Has

Recruitment has surged, agency says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2014 5:04 AM CDT
CIA: ISIS Numbers Have Tripled
ISIS fighters pray at the Tabqa air base after capturing it from the Syrian government forces in Raqqa, Syria, last month.   (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, File)

The CIA says the number of fighters it believes ISIS can muster in Iraq and Syria has tripled in the space of months. The new estimate of between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters on the ground is based on intelligence gathered between May and August, reports the BBC. "This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity, and additional intelligence," a CIA spokesman says. An intelligence official tells AFP that the estimate includes some of the estimated 15,000 foreign fighters—including 2,000 Westerners—who have joined the Syrian civil war.

President Obama unveiled his anti-ISIS strategy Wednesday night—to very mixed reactions. Saudi Arabia is among the Arab allies that have joined the coalition against ISIS, but analysts warn that the effort faces multiple obstacles, the Guardian reports. There is little intelligence on potential targets for airstrikes in eastern Syria, raising the risk of civilian casualties, and the anti-ISIS rebel groups the coalition will arm and train come with their own problems. "You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready, because they don't exist," a Syria analyst tells the New York Times. "It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer." (Read more ISIS stories.)

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