The territory held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is shrinking, and they are losing the battle online, the Obama administration said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who serves as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, told reporters that ISIS is faltering both in battle and over the Internet, where they have been known to recruit.
"They are very much on the defensive," McGurk said. "They have not re-taken any territory since their operations in Ramadi going all the way back to May. Their territory is shrinking."
Since they took Ramadi, ISIS has lost Tikrit, Baiji, Sinjar, and Ramadi itself in Iraq, along with ground in Syria including Palmyra.
In mid-April, The Iraq Oil Report broke the news that airstrikes inside Mosul City — which was once intended to be the focal point of ISIS' caliphate — have been "killing dozens of militants per week." Not only that, but the airstrikes are hitting ISIS cash warehouses and creating rampant paranoia amongst the ranks, so much so that militants scatter from their bases at the sound of jets or drones overhead.
Along with U.S. airstrikes that have damaged ISIS' hold on oil fields in Iraq and Syria, Jordan — which borders both Iraq and Syria — has also joined in the fight. They conduct weekly airstrikes, like their American allies, but they are also publishing anti-ISIS propaganda and gathering intelligence, The Guardian reported.
Just hours before McGurk's press conference, ISIS killed 14 people at a natural gas plant in Baghdad and 15 more in a car bombing 20 miles south. Iraqi officials have suggested the insurgency-style tactics may be intended to distract from ISIS' recent setbacks, according to CBS News.
"It's not going to work but that's what they're trying to do," McGurk said. "It's not a new tactic but this is the nature of the organization."
While ISIS territory shrinks, hundreds of students in Moadamiyeh and Madaya — two rebel-held Syrian towns besieged by government forces — were allowed to take year-end exams, according to activists and state media. It was their first day outside of their towns in 302 days.
The exams were a "rejection of the ignorance that the nation's enemies are striving for," Education Minister Hazwan al-Wuz said.
This story has been updated to include information from The Iraq Oil Report, which provides information on Iraq using a large on-the-ground network of sources inside the country.
Cover photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images.