The monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting ISIS has taken to installing surveillance cameras across their de facto capital city of Raqqa, and is lowering street patrols, raising speculation that they don’t have enough fighters to patrol the city as they have been.
That’s entirely possible, with ISIS launching a huge number of offensives along their frontiers in both Iraq and Syria, they may simply be spreading themselves thinner than usual. ISIS has been targeting both Kurdish and Syrian military forces on several fronts.
At the same time, it would be unusual for ISIS to reduce its Raqqa presence so dramatically right now, as only weeks prior Kurdish forces had taken the town of Tel Abyad, and have been openly talking about attacking Raqqa directly. It’s hard to imagine they’d leave their capital so comparatively unguarded in that event.
It could be that ISIS is deliberately lowering their public presence in Raqqa because of the talks of a Kurdish-led strike, trying to goad them into striking only to discover that the city is better defended than they’d imagined it to be.