Despite its fractured leadership, the Islamic State is gaining strength in Iraq and Syria, conducting frequent guerrilla attacks and once again beheading people in public, U.S. and Iraqi military and intelligence officers told The New York Times.
ISIS was pushed out of its last bit of territory in Syria five months ago, but it still has an estimated 18,000 fighters, and more and more are being recruited at Al Hol, a tent camp in northern Syria housing 70,000 people — many of them relatives of ISIS fighters. American intelligence officials said they consider this camp, managed by Syrian Kurds, a breeding ground for future terrorists.
President Trump has ordered troops out of Syria, but a recent inspector general's report said this has made it harder to support Syrian allies fighting ISIS, and they are only able to focus on keeping militants out of urban areas. In July, Trump said the U.S. and allies did "a great job," but it's time for troops to leave. "We'll be out of there pretty soon," he added. "And let them handle their own problems."
ISIS sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq are carrying out assassinations, abductions, and sniper attacks, conducting 139 deadly attacks in northern and western Iraq during the first six months of the year. Earlier this month, a police officer in a rural village two hours north of Baghdad was publicly beheaded by armed men who said they were part of ISIS. The terrorist organization is supported by business endeavors like fish farming and cannabis growing, the Times reports, and it's believed they have hidden away as much as $400 million.