The Islamic State (ISIS)

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The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“Sham” is Arabic for the Levant) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a Sunni terrorist group which controls territory in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. The group recently claimed to have established a Caliphate, with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as its Caliph. It was founded in early 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to combat American and coalition forces and replace the newly establish Iraqi government with an Islamic state. Originally known as Jama’at Al-Tawhid Wa’al-Jihad, or The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad, it became the official al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq after Zarqawi swore loyalty to Osama bin Laden in late 2004. Severely weakened by American forces during the Surge, it has re-emerged as a significant fighting force fed by the sectarianism of the Malaki government and chaos of the Syrian civil war. In February 2014, al Qaeda disowned the group following a dispute with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate. From its base in Iraq’s Anbar province, it has swiftly and dramatically consolidated power in Sunni-dominated areas on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

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U.S. Likely to Send as Many as 1,000 More Troops into Syria Ahead of Raqqa Offensive, Officials Say

The U.S. military has drawn up early plans that would deploy up to 1,000 more troops into northern Syria in the coming weeks, expanding the American presence in the country ahead of the offensive on the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, according to U.S. defense officials familiar with the matter. The deployment, if approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis […]

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Rival Groups Race for Control of Syria’s Raqqa

A major battle to liberate the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria is looming, with U.S. officials looking to build on momentum from victories on the battlefields of Mosul in Iraq. The Pentagon has drawn up a secret plan to do that, likely leaning on local allies with stepped-up American support. The […]

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U.S. Forces Play Crucial Role Against ISIS in Mosul

One week after Iraqi forces began their push into western Mosul, American firepower is playing an essential role in softening the opposition from the Islamic State. The thunderous booms from howitzers near Hamam al-Alil, a town along the Tigris River, are just part of the American military’s contribution to keeping the Iraqi offensive moving forward. […]

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Dawn of the Jihadi Drone Wars

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported February 23 that it had downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the Mediterranean after it was launched from the Gaza Strip. According to IDF sources, an Israeli F-16 shot down the UAV, which it said belonged to Hamas, before it was able to cross into the country’s airspace. […]

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Reconsidering Safe Zones in Syria

The situation in Syria remains bleak, with no end in sight to its five-year civil war. President Bashar Assad’s forces and their Russian and Iranian backers continue to lay waste to rebel-held territory, leaving the rebels with shrinking leverage to pressure the regime into a lasting political settlement. Meanwhile, the Islamic State (ISIS) holds key […]

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The Saudi-led Coalition Is Not Ready to Fight the Islamic State

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited Saudi Arabia last week hoping to reassure nervous Gulf allies that American security commitments remain in force in the wake of last year’s Iran nuclear deal. In exchange, the White House was hoping to encourage the Gulf states to play a more active role in the […]

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Israel Bolsters Its Sinai Border Amid ISIS Threats

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio message this weekend threatening Israel with a devastating attack. The message was Baghdadi’s most direct warning yet against the Jewish state, but one that will not have come as a surprise in Jerusalem. Israel deems the group’s branch in Egypt’s neighboring Sinai Peninsula its most effective […]

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Putin’s S-400 Power-Play in Syria

Russia is upping the ante in the Eastern Mediterranean in response to the downing of its fighter jet by Turkish F-16s last week. Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed S-400 air-defense missiles in Syria and expanded fighter escorts for bombing operations. While Moscow has predicated its intervention in Syria on supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime’s […]

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Should the U.S. Continue to Use Incirlik?

Turkey’s cabinet announced July 29 that the United States and coalition members targeting the Islamic State (ISIS) would be permitted to fly combat missions from Incirlik air base in south Turkey. This U.S.-Turkish facility is well positioned near the Syrian front, and offers the coalition greater tactical flexibility. It could certainly help in the effort, as […]

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The Folly of Turkey’s Syrian Buffer Zone Plan

Ankara raised the prospect last weekend of a military operation to create a buffer zone along its Syrian frontier. While Turkey is officially part of a 60-nation coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), this military initiative would instead be focused on a different threat: the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (PYD) in Syria. […]

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The Islamic State’s Growth in Libya

The Islamic State (ISIS) has made gains throughout Libya since fall 2014, when local Islamist forces pledged allegiance to the “caliphate.” This map tracks those gains as well as major attacks by the group. View full screen map here.