The Central Intelligence Agency believes the Islamic State militant group “can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters” throughout both Iraq and Syria, CNN reports.
If true, that would mean the Islamic State’s numbers have more than doubled compared to the agency’s last estimate, which pinned the group’s total amount of fighters at roughly 10,000.
“This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity, and additional intelligence,” a CIA spokesperson told CNN.
In addition to updating its estimates regarding the Islamic State’s fighting force, a separate US official also told the news channel that the US government is already conducting surveillance flights within Syria’s borders. The United States is looking to collect information that would help it determine when and whether to launch airstrikes in Syria, in order to degrade the group’s ability to fight and maneuver.
Still, these flights do not indicate that airstrikes will be launched soon, another unnamed official added.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby said that whenever the US does take military action against the group – also known as ISIS or ISIL – it will also consider targeting individuals in leadership positions.