Islamic State’s Jihadist Army In Syria Swells To 50,000

The increase in numbers of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria are partly due to foreign fighters being recruited from up to 81 nationalities. It is reported that the up to 50,000 fighters are now active in Syria and they are engaged in fighting multiple fronts, including against the Kurds in Kobane, Syria as well as against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.

It was previously reported that Islamic State decapitated a famous antiquities scholar, Khaled al-Asaad, but with numbers growing so rapidly, the fear is now that the Islamic State Caliphate in Syria could pose a far greater danger than to any one man, or even the world heritage site in Palmyra. U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly indicated there is no quick or easy fix to the threat Islamic State poses.

“We don’t have a strategy yet.”

While the U.S. carries out its ad hoc military strategy, the U.K.s Prime Minister David Cameron is planning a more home grown solution placing the burden on all Muslims to stop young people, especially, from travelling abroad to fight with Islamic State, or supporting the extremist ideology in other ways, like preaching hate on the streets.

“If we are to tackle this threat we need to confront extremism in all its forms, violent and non-violent.”

It is difficult to get inside the inner workings of extremists to understand what their way of life offers to attract so many people. In a recent undercover video, a French woman in the Northern city of Raqqa Syria takes a brief journey into everyday life in a city run by Islamic State.

The growing numbers of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria has resulted in up to a third of each of these states under their control with some reports putting the number much higher at 50 percent. However, despite the apparent hand wringing by world leaders, strikes are being taken out against key Islamic positions, particularly in Aleppo, Syria’s most war-torn city.

It is important for Syria to keepAleppo from falling to Islamic State as this could potentially serve as a staging ground for attacks against the currently impregnable Damascus, Syria’s capital. Other victories include recent Kurdish advances in the Syrian border city of Tal Abyad. A city that was transformed into a militant Sharia Law stronghold has now been liberated by the Syrian Kurdish forces known as the YPG. But for the residents of this city, the military and political battles are less of a concern than stability. One Syrian resident is less optimistic of so called “liberation” from Islamic State that the Kurds, the Syrian army, and the West provide.

“They fight over power, religion and democracy, while we can’t even support our children or put food on the table.”

It seems then, to defeat Islamic State we need more than bombs and rhetoric, we need food and shelter, i.e. the basics, for the people living in the crossfire.

[Image courtesy of Alalam]