ISIS is fleeing its last major stronghold—starving, emaciated, and high on drugs.
As the terrorist group’s food supplies dwindle, the U.S. military believes ISIS’s resources are drained and that they are relying on drugs to prop themselves up, according to a briefing by Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.
Dillon said very few ISIS fighters have been taken alive by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and most are refusing to surrender.
“They are malnourished, emaciated and, many of them, pocked with needle tracks from what is assessed as amphetamines they used to maintain their murderous fervor,” he said.
Dillon said SDF forces now control about 55 percent of Raqqa, ISIS’s remaining stronghold after their defeat last month in Mosul, and that he believes they are getting desperate.
Previous reports link ISIS to Captagon, which is a brand of the drug fenethylline, a muscle relaxant. Invented in the 1960s and popularized due to its effectiveness in treating narcolepsy and attention disorders, it was banned in most places by the 1980s due to its addictiveness, but it is still popular in the Middle East.
It’s not clear if the current Raqqa fighters are using Captagon, but captured ISIS fighters told journalists about hallucinogenic pills “that would make you go to battle not caring if you live or die,” according to a CNN report.
“The fact that they are using some sort of drugs to keep them alert and to keep them going is some telling signs of their desperation,” said Dillon.
Less than 2,500 ISIS members are estimated to remain in Raqqa, Syria, and the SDF has 50,000 fighters bearing down on them, he said.
Dillon said that the ISIS fighters have “no escape.”
“They have had time to prepare for the end, and their plan is to make those fighting them to bleed for every inch of Raqqa.”
Raqqa is full of explosives that were rigged up during the three years ISIS has controlled the city. The terrorists are using rooftops and underground tunnels to launch their “three-dimensional defense” they used in the city of Mosul. Counterattacks that used the tunnels on Aug. 14 and 15, which SDF and coalition forces managed to repel, led to the capture of the terrorists and the discovery of their desperate use of amphetamines.
“As the SDF fights, block by block, we’ve also gotten a better picture of one of the ways ISIS plans to hold on,” Dillon said, adding that many of their fighters are holed up in the city’s main hospital. “They have fortified the complex, created tunnels for access, and are hiding among women and children who have nowhere else to go.”
The progress to take back Raqqa from ISIS is on a quicker pace than the nine months it required to take back Mosul. The U.S. military currently has 5,200 personnel in Iraq and 500 in Syria. The United States is aiding the coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters with airstrikes and special forces units.