CIA: Islamic State May Have Tripled in Force in Last Three Months

Current estimates place number of group's fighters between 20,000-30,000, up from previous figure of 10,000, CIA spokesman says.

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Islamic State fighters parade in Raqqa, Syria. Undated image posted June 30, 2014.
Islamic State fighters parade in Raqqa, Syria. Undated image posted June 30, 2014.Credit: AP

A CIA spokesman said a new intelligence assessment estimated that Islamic State could muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, up from a previous figure of 10,000.

The new assessment is based on a review of intelligence reports from May to August. It is larger than the 20,000 figure being used by many outside experts.
CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said the new total reflected stronger recruitment by the extremist group since June following battlefield successes and the group's declaration of a caliphate. He says the revised number also reflects "greater battlefield activity, and additional intelligence."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday he was comfortable that the United States would form a broad-based coalition to fight Islamic State militants but said it would not be appropriate for Iran to be involved in the efforts.

Speaking in Ankara after meeting Turkish leaders during a tour of the Middle East, Kerry said it would be premature to lay out the role of individual nations in the coalition Washington is seeking to build against ISIL, the acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the group's former name.

On Friday morning, French President Francois Hollande has landed in Iraq ahead of meetings with Iraqi officials regarding possible French airstrikes on Islamic State targets. If the Iraqi government requests such action, French strikes could start very soon, in coordination with the United States.

Hollande's visit and a conference that Paris is hosting next week on Iraq are the first steps by France in a long-term effort to bolster the Iraqi government and weaken militants from the Islamic State group.

At the same time, an aide to German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will not take part in the air strikes, saying that "the stabilization of the region is of great concern to the German government but I can rule out participation in military air strikes."

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