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Number of IS Foreign Fighters Nosedives in Iraq, Syria

FILE - A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province.

The number of foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State has plunged to a tiny fraction of those entering a year ago, a U.S. general said Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, Deputy Commander for Operations and Intelligence for the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS, told reporters via teleconference from Baghdad that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syria each month when he deployed to Baghdad in mid-2015.

“Now that we’ve been fighting this enemy for a year, our estimates are down to around 200 [per month],”said Gersten.

The coalition also has seen an increase in desertion rates by Islamic State fighters, along with a failure by the militant group to pay its fighters, according to the general.

“We’re seeing the inability to fight. We’re watching them try to leave Daesh (Islamic State), and in every single way their morale is being broken,” he said, using a term reflecting the Arab acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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