- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The number of new recruits joining the ranks of the Islamic State has drastically dwindled in recent months due largely to the terror group’s growing inability to pay fighters, a top Pentagon official said Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, the deputy commander of the U.S. Defense Department’s anti-Islamic State coalition, said at a press conference Tuesday that desertion rates have increased among Islamic State members and that fewer foreign fighters are joining the terror group when compared to statistics from a year earlier.

“When I first got here, we were seeing somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 foreign fighters entering the fight [monthly]. Now that we’ve been fighting this enemy for a year, our estimates are down to around 200,” he told reporters.

Weighing in with respect to apparent rampant desertion in recent months, he said the Pentagon is “seeing the morale of the enemy beginning to deteriorate at a fairly increasing rate.”

“We are seeing, through other sources, that Daesh cannot pay their foreign fighters,” Maj. Gen. Gersten said, using an alternate name for the group also known as ISIS and ISIL. “They are trading vehicles now for pay. Some fighters aren’t being paid at all, is what we’re seeing.”

“We’re seeing their inability to pay. We’re seeing the inability to fight. We’re watching them try to leave Daesh. In every single way, their morale is being broken. In every single way, their capability to wage war is broken. In every single way, we will continue to take this fight and eradicate this cancer,” he added.

The defense official’s remarks were made four days after West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center released a report that cited previously unpublished Islamic State documents to suggest pressure on the terror group’s military, financial and administrative domains has hindered growth in recent months and has forced fighters to take pay cuts and adopt other cost-cutting measures.

“The reasons for financial strain on the Islamic State overlap to a degree with the causes of problems of cohesion in the Islamic State’s ranks, such as reduced border access to Turkey, tougher border policies and coalition airstrikes,” the report noted.

“Finally, one may also tie financial strain to the lack of significant territorial gains for some time, as the lack of acquisition means fewer opportunities to generate income through confiscations — a strategy that seems to play an important role in Islamic State financing, based on the aforementioned leaked financial accounts from Deir ez-Zor province.”

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