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The Rise and Fall of ISIS

ISIS is now defeated, and this timeline highlights the terror groups' rise, its fearful reign, and its powerful collapse.


NOTE: The purpose of this article is to explain a piece of history, and how events unfolded. If you do make it to the end of this article, I hope you see how much we can accomplish when nations, and thus ourselves, come together.

2004: Roots of ISIS Begin

Roots of ISIS began when organization known as “al Qaeda in Iraq” (AQI) formed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was a part of the al Qaeda network. The objective of AQI was to remove western occupation and influence, replacing it with a Sunni Islamist regime. AQI was attempting to trigger a Civil War between Iraqi Sunni and Shia Muslims. They did so by carrying out regular attacks on Shia holy sites and population centers. Foreign fighters began joining AQI.

2005: Islamic State in Iraq Forms

Soon after declaring war on Shia Muslims, al Qaeda in Iraq merges with other Sunni factions, forming the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI). The current and infamous black flag was adopted during this time, with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as its leader.

al-Zarqawi continues his reign of terror by declaring war on Shia Muslims in the region. This came at no surprise, as the organization has been carrying out attacks against the population since the beginning of the Iraq War. His plan was to attack Shia places of worship in hopes that they attack the Sunni population, thereby starting a Civil War and leading Sunni Muslims towards joining AQI. This did prove true, as many Sunni Muslims joined the organization.

A proposed map of ISIS territory in the near future.

A proposed map of ISIS territory in the near future.

2006: ISI Leader Killed & Sunni Resistance

In resistance of the violent Islamic State in Iraq terrorist group, many Sunni Muslims began forming alliances with US troops. The United States began reaching out to Sunni tribes with salaries and weapons in hopes that they would fight against the oppressors. However, the terrorist groups were strengthened as the United States pulled out of Iraq in 2011.

On June 7th, 2006, ISI/AQI founder and leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by the United States in an airstrike. However, it ended up strengthening Zarqawi’s followers in Iraq due to martyrdom being a big part of Jihadist culture.

2011: ISI Moves into Syria

Amidst the chaos of the Syrian Civil War, Islamic State in Iraq leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dispatched a group of fighters to sneak across the Iraqi border into Syria. Their mission was to establish a Jihadist group that would participate in the Civil War. Due to the unpopularity of the Assad regime, many Syrians would end up with this Jihadist group. They will later merge with other groups in 2013 to officially form ISIS.

2014: More of Iraq & Syria fall to ISIS; Global Coalition Begins

By this time, ISIS has now captured Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities. Around 2,000 fighters staged the attack, nearly unopposed as the Iraqi Army fled their posts. Around 500,000 civilians also were expected to have fled the city in wake of the attack. This was the start of strong media coverage around the world.

2014 marks the peak of ISIS rule. Here are some other key events happening this year:

• ISIS takes over Raqqa

• Al Qaeda officially cuts ties with the Islamic State

• The town of Tikrit is taken over

• ISIS seizes the border crossing between Syria provinces and Iraq

• The Islamic State conquers the Kurdish towns of Sinjar and Zumar

Sending a strong global message to the Islamic State, some 60 nations from around the world joined forces in a coalition to destroy the so-called caliphate. Members include the United States, Canada, France, Russia, China, and the United Kingdom. It would take more than 3 ½ years for ISIS to be defeated after this coalition was first created.

A map of Militant-controlled territory in the year 2014

A map of Militant-controlled territory in the year 2014

2015: Attacks Continue, but with a Counterforce of Attacks

A strong surge of attacks occurred during this time, killing thousands of people from all faiths. Many of the more prominent attacks were from mass-kidnappings of Christians and bombings of Mosques in Saudi Arabia.

Russia has now joined the fight by bombing ISIS-held areas. France, the United States, and the United Kingdom soon follow with the increase of air attacks on the Islamic State. With this strong support, Iraqi and Kurdish forces begin to bring towns under their control once again.

2016: Gaining Ground Against a Once Powerful Enemy

Iraqi forces continue to gain headway in the fight against ISIS. They have taken back the towns of Fallujah, Rutbah, Hit, and Manjib. However, there are still continued attacks abroad that are inspired by the Islamic State, which include church and Mosque bombings.

The beginning of attacks by nations apart of the coalition

The beginning of attacks by nations apart of the coalition

2017: ISIS Loses Ground on the Homefront

The Islamic State suffers a year of catastrophic defeats, one of the most significant ever since the group was created. It first loses Mosul to Iraqi forces after months of fighting and Baghdad declares the end of the caliphate. The Syrian army then races eastwards, combined with the help of Russia and Iran to re-extend state control at the Euphrates. In October, the SDF drives IS from Raqqa.

2018: The Long Fight Comes to a Close

The Syrian government retakes Yarmouk, south of Damascus, and on the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The SDF advances further down the Euphrates and Iraqi forces take the rest of the border. President Trump formally declared that the United States intends to withdraw troops held in the region.

Syrians returning home after the liberation of their homeland

Syrians returning home after the liberation of their homeland

2019: The Last Stand

ISIS was last held in its enclave along the Euphrates River at Banghouz, a small village in Iraq. They have since been defeated, but may continue to operate underground.

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