ISIS foreign recruitment plummets as airstrikes destroy its cash supplies
By Lucas Tomlinson
Published April 26, 2016
Small US troop addition could have big impact in ISIS fight
The rate of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria has dropped to just 200 per month, down from 1,500-2,000 a year ago, a senior military officer from Baghdad told Fox News during a press briefing at the Pentagon Tuesday.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the U.S.-led coalition’s deputy commander for operations and intelligence, said recent airstrikes against ISIS cash storage facilities have "fractured" the group.
"In every single way their morale is being broken, in every single way their capability to wage war is broken, and in every single way way we will take this fight and eradicate this cancer," he added. Gersten also said the desertion rates among ISIS fighters have risen.
The announcement came as House lawmakers considered a bill aimed at weakening terror recruitment efforts.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., would urge the Department of Homeland Security to use testimonials from former or estranged jihadis, like the State Department has, to effectively counter the ISIS message.
“Any time you have someone’s first-hand account of the sheer terror that ISIS can provoke … that’s powerful,” Fleischmann said Tuesday, hours before the House voted on his measure, which has bipartisan support.
U.S. Airstrikes On ISIS in Iraq and Syria | Graphiq
Fleischmann, whose home state was the site of a terror-inspired attack last year in which four Marines and a sailor were killed, also expressed optimism about the bill’s chances for success, amid some Democrats arguing the measure wouldn’t reduce domestic terror.
“It’s incumbent upon all members of Congress to support legislation that keeps us safe at home and abroad,” he said. “When you have … bipartisan support, it shouldn’t devolve into a bipartisan fight. We all have to be concerned about the world being very dangerous.”
Gersten estimates strikes against ISIS cash sites have wiped away between $300-800 million dollars. The coalition conducted "tens" of strikes as he described it.
Pentagon officials say they believe one strike last month killed the terror group’s finance minister. $150 million was destroyed at his house.
Using a tactic from the Israelis, Gersten said the coalition detonated explosives in the air to scare civilians out of the home. The "knock operation," as this tactic is called, has been used to minimalize civilian casualties, Gersten said.
When asked how many ISIS fighters have been killed on the battlefield, he replied, "not enough." He did not give an estimate on the overall size of ISIS.
Gersten said the U.S. military would deploy an advanced rocket system to Turkey which uses GPS guidance to destroy targets up to 180 miles away, in another sign of incremental escalation in the war against ISIS. On Monday, President Obama announced 250 more U.S. troops would be going to Syria.
Gersten would not say where the rocket system, known as HIMARS, would be deployed in Turkey citing operational security.
In addition, the FBI has seen fewer Americans traveling or trying to travel to Iraq and Syria, director James Comey said last week. However, he pointed out that more people could have taken different routes or worked to hide their trails online.
Comey said he’s hopeful the drop is due to stiff law enforcement efforts and tough federal sentences for those attempting to join ISIS.
Fox News’ Matt Dean and Chad Pergram and FoxNews.com’s Joseph Weber contributed to this report.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel.