Coalition: IS Losing Ground in Iraq and Syria

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
Iraqi security forces and pro-government Sunni tribal fighters help trapped civilians to cross from neighborhoods under control of Islamic State group to neighborhoods under control of Iraqi security forces in Ramadi city,Iraq January 4, 2016. Picture taken January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
Iraqi security forces and pro-government Sunni tribal fighters help trapped civilians to cross from neighborhoods under control of Islamic State group to neighborhoods under control of Iraqi security forces in Ramadi city, Monday. (Reuters/Stringer)

The Islamic State terror group’s territory shrank by 40 percent from its maximum expansion in Iraq, and by 20 percent in Syria in 2015, as international forces pushed the terrorists out of several cities, a spokesman of the US-led coalition said on Tuesday.

“We believe in Iraq it’s about 40 percent … And Syria, harder to get a good number, we think it’s around 20,” coalition spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren reported during a press briefing in Baghdad. “Taking together Iraq and Syria .. they lost 30 percent of the territory they once held,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from the hardline Islamic terror group on these estimates from the coalition which has been bombing its positions, and which is made up of countries including Britain, France and Jordan.

IS swept through a third of Iraq in 2014, seizing Mosul, the largest city in the north, and reaching the vicinity of Baghdad. Last month’s counter-offensives by Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces supported by the US-led coalition, and by Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, have forced them out of several cities since, including Tikrit, north of Baghdad, and Ramadi, to the west.

In Syria, IS is fighting the army of President Bashar al-Assad plus other rebel groups opposed to his rule. It is facing air strikes by the US-led coalition and by Russia, which has sent warplanes to support its ally, the Syrian government.

Iraq is encouraged by the recent developments. Last month Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 2016 will be the year of “final victory” against Islamic State.