The Pentagon's newly released map
that it says shows where the Islamic State's (ISIS) fighters have been pushed back is misleading and incomplete, regional experts and people on the ground are saying.
The Defense Department, while releasing the document, claimed ISIS is "no longer able to operate freely in roughly 25 percent to 30 percent of populated areas of Iraqi territory where it once could," but one critic told The Daily Beast
that the map actually excludes and obscures some of the facts.
The map has just two categories, one showing the territory that ISIS holds, and another
showing territory that was lost since the U.S.-led coalition began its airstrikes against the militants in August. However, it does not include details about where ISIS has managed to gain territory, said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.
"A far more important facet of assessing our success or failure is measuring ISIS’ capacity to continue offensive operations and to reach beyond its lines of actual control," Lister told The Daily Beast. "In that respect, I’d say ISIS has been very minimally challenged since August 2014 and its only this kind of measurement that will persuade local actors on the ground that ISIS is losing."
However, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren said ISIS is not achieving its own stated goals of gaining and holding territory, but still acknowledged that the document "was not meant to be a detailed tactical map — it is simply a graphic used to explain the overall situation."
The map also does not depict the entire ISIS battlefield, The Daily Beast reports. It excludes the western side of Syria, where ISIS has maintained control since the airstrikes began.
Jennifer Cafarella, a fellow specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War, said the map appears accurate, but it "cuts off, essentially ignoring ISIS in the Syrian-Lebanese border region and Damascus."
Those gains should be included because "they are a forward investment for ISIS that will create long-term opportunities for further expansion into zones in which coalition airstrikes are unlikely, at least in the near term, to penetrate," Cafarella continued.
ISIS is also showing force in the northeastern suburbs of Damascus and through a violent takeover of an area surrounding the Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp.
The map does show the Salamiyah district in central Syria as being under ISIS control, but does not note that ISIS moved in after the airstrikes began.
"While the Obama administration says that it is fighting ISIS in Syria, ISIS is actually expanding into Salamiyeh… without [being confronted by] a single U.S. airstrike," said Omar Hossino, director of public relations for the anti-Assad Syrian American Council.
"The people of Salamiyeh are under threat of genocide, especially the Ismaili majority.”
The Pentagon also said in a note with the map
that ISIS gains in Syria should be offset by its losses there, which Lister says is "being more than a bit positive."
ISIS has also blocked neighborhoods and cut off people in two other areas of Iraq and Syria after the airstrikes started, notes Evan Barrett, a political adviser for the opposition group Coalition for a Democratic Syria, including cutting off some 200,000 civilians in Deir Ezzor in Syria.
"Regular appeals are made from the city for support, including in the form of international strikes, but according to Syrian independent broadcasters, strikes in the province focus on ISIS oil assets and border areas far from the besieged provincial capital," he told The Daily Beast.
Sinan Adnan, a pseudonym for an Iranian-American employee working at the Institute for the Study of War, also said an area in the Hit district in Iraq's Anbar province also fell in October, months after the airstrikes began.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.