US deputy commander says strikes targeting infrastructure reduced the terror group’s cash reserves.
The number of foreign fighters arriving in Iraq and Syria to join ISIL fell from 1,500 to 2,000 a month a year ago to 200 now, according to the U.S. Defense ministry.
Peter Gersten, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the U.S.-led campaign against ISIL, said Tuesday that the decline is a result of strikes targeted at the terror group’s infrastructure.
“We’re actually seeing an increase in … the desertion rates in these fighters. We’re seeing a fracture in their morale. We’re seeing their inability to pay,” Gersten said.
He added that the U.S. had executed around 20 air strikes targeting ISIL’s stores of money, destroying an estimated €265 to €700 million. This led to a rise in defections and a drop in new arrivals as the group struggles to pay fighters, according to Gersten.
Of the estimated 4,000 EU citizens who have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL, around 30 percent returned to their home country, according to a report published early April. The majority of them come from just four EU countries: Belgium, France, Germany, and the U.K..
Between 27,000 and 31,000 foreign fighters from 86 countries are thought to have traveled to Iraq and Syria in 2015, compared to around 12,000 in 2014.