Most of the militants have been recruited by the Takfiri ISIS terrorist group, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing US intelligence and law enforcement officials.
The figure, a doubling of last year’s assessment, suggests that a year of airstrikes by the US-led coalition against purported ISIS positions has not hindered the group’s recruitment.
The report said the “group continues to replenish its ranks.”
According to the Pentagon, the coalition airstrikes have killed about 10,000 ISIS terrorists. Despite that, the Takfiri group recruits “an average of about 1,000” militants a month, the report underscored.
Apart from the airstrikes, the US has also set up a USD500-million program to train “moderate” militants operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The chief of the US military campaign in Iraq and Syria has acknowledged that the program has so far yielded only “four or five” militants.
The remarks by Army General Lloyd J. Austin III before a Senate panel on September 16 set off a wave of criticism from congressional lawmakers, who are wary of the Obama administration’s strategy toward ISIS.
Critics say US-allied militants could turn their training and weapons against the Syrian government rather than ISIS because they see the terrorists fighting in a parallel war.
The influx of foreign militants into Syria and Iraq has prompted warnings from several European governments in recent months. A large number of Europeans have entered Syria to fight against the Damascus government, and fears are now growing that the battle-hardened militants may carry out terrorist attacks once they return home.
Gruesome violence has plagued the northern and western parts of Iraq ever since ISIS launched an offensive in June 2014, and took control of portions of the country.
In Syria, the foreign-sponsored conflict, which flared in March 2011, has claimed more than 240,000 lives up until now, according to reports; Press TV reported.