ISIL Has 200,000-Strong Force, Says Kurdish Leader
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have an army of about 200,000 fighters, over six times larger than previous CIA estimates, a senior Iraqi Kurdish leader said.
"I am talking about hundreds of thousands of fighters because they are able to mobilize young Arab men in the territory they have taken," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, told the UK Independent in an exclusive interview.
Controlling roughly one third of Iraq and Syria, Hussein says the 250,000 square kilometer territory has provided ISIL a 10 to 12 million-large population from which to attract potential fighters, RT reported.
He said this sizeable force explains how the ISIL had been able to wage successful campaigns on multiple fronts in Iraq and Syria.
"They are fighting in Kobane," he said. “In Kurdistan last month they were attacking in seven different places as well as in Ramadi (capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad) and Jalawla (an Arab-Kurdish town close to Iranian border)."
Hussein believes previous US intelligence estimates, with an upward range of 31,500 militants, may have been referring strictly to a “core” force of fighters. But with a sophisticated propaganda effort, coupled with a strong military and ideological core, ISIL has developed into a sophisticated fighting force that has caught Western governments off guard.
"We are talking about a state that has a military and ideological basis," said Mr Hussein, "so that means they want everyone to learn how to use a rifle, but they also want everybody to have training in their ideology, in other words brainwashing."
In their blistering 5-month offensive, ISIL militants have counted suicide bombings, mines, snipers and deployment of captured US armored fighting vehicles among their tactics.
That the ISIL was able to seize and use tanks, heavy artillery and other US hardware, with such speed following the fall of Mosul on June 10, likely signifies the group has successfully identified and incorporated former Iraqi and Syrian soldiers.