Over the past 18 months, the Islamic State has continued to loose territory at an increasing rate. In 2015, the Islamic State’s caliphate shrunk by 12,800 km2 to 78,000 km2, a net loss of 14 percent. In the first six months of 2016, that territory shrunk again by 12 percent. As of 4 July 2016, the Islamic State controls roughly 68,300 km2 in Iraq and Syria, which is roughly the size of Ireland or the US state of West Virginia.
Over the coming year, more towns and cities are likely to become isolated from the core Caliphate, as was the case in Ramadi and Fallujah, enabling the fragmentation and gradual defeat of the Islamic State as a conventional force.
The Islamic State is under increasing pressure in northern Syria, an area of vital ground, which the group cannot afford to lose if its governance project is to survive. This includes Raqqa, the seat of the group’s leadership and a model city for its governance project, and areas giving access to the Turkish border, via the logistics hubs of Manbij and al-Bab. […]