The Islamic State, the dreaded terrorist group that has gained control over the larger parts of Iraq and Syria, has up to 31,500 fighters – three times as many as previously feared, according to the latest CIA estimate.
“The CIA assesses the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, based on a new review of all-source intelligence reports from May to August, an increase from our previous assessment of at least 10,000 fighters,” a CIA spokesperson told .
The CIA estimate came a day after President Barack Obama yesterday announced a major expansion of the US-led military campaign, including American airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of 475 more military advisers to Iraq, to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS or ISIL.
ISIS is an al-Qaeda splinter group and it has seized hundreds of square miles in Iraq and Syria, which is equal in size as that of Britain and poses a threat to the region.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the US is not at war with ISIS.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss the coalition strategy to combat the Islamic State, the Pentagon said.
Meanwhile, the US Central Command continued to attack IS terrorists in Iraq, using attack aircraft to conduct two airstrikes on Wednesday and Thursday near the Mosul Dam.
The US Central Command has conducted a total of 156 airstrikes across Iraq.