Number of ISIS Fighters in Iraq and Syria Drops, Increases in Libya, US Official Says

Some 19,000 to 25,000 in Iraq and Syria, 5,000 in Libya, U.S. official says.

Previous U.S. estimates for Iraq and Syria in the past year have been that ISIS has remained constant at between 20,000 and 30,000, with a peak of 33,000, according to a Defense Department official.

The new lower estimate for Iraq and Syria could be due to a combination of factors, such as coalition airstrikes, battlefield deaths, desertions, disciplinary actions, recruiting shortfalls and difficulties that foreign fighters face in traveling into Syria, the official said. It also could be that the U.S. intelligence community has a better handle on counting ISIS numbers.

The number of ISIS fighters in Libya was previously estimated at 2,000 to 3,000, the official said, speculating that there might be a correlation between the new ISIS estimates in Iraq/Syria and Libya as it’s getting harder for foreign fighters to get into Syria and that they may be diverting to Libya as a result.

The increasing ISIS presence in Libya has drawn increasing concern from American security officials.