ISIS initially declared existence as an affiliate of Al-Qaeda terror organization. It named itself the Islamic State of Iraq. The group was formed on October 15, 2006, when a number of the armed factions’ leaders held a meeting in Iraq to announce the group. Since 2006, the group claimed responsibility for many attacks across the country. After the killing of its first leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced as a new leader.
Under the new leader, the range of operations was broadened. When the Syrian crisis broke out, the group’s fighters moved to the Arab country within a campaign of expansion.
When the Syrian anti-government protests entered a military phase in late 2011, the Al-Nusra Front was formed as a branch of the Islamic State in Iraq. Very fast, the group rose as a marked militant group across Syria. Finally, in 2013, al-Baghdadi in a voice tape announced the merger of Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria to form the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
As time went by, Al-Nusra clashed with ISIS over the captured areas. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda leader, called for limiting the operations to Iraq but al-Baghdadi pressed that the terror coalition had to get a foothold in Syria too. The conflict of views at the end of the road led to their separation and even clashes in some parts of Syria.
In early 2013, ISIS seized control of Fallujah in Iraq’s Al Anbar province. Shortly later, Mosul, the center of Iraq’s Nineveh province, fell to it too.
Since then, ISIS based its strategy on a campaign of psychological warfare and looting the Iraqi natural sources to build its power in Syria and Iraq. ISIS promotional videos bore heinous scenes of killings and terror to force many of the citizens of the threatened regions to flee their homes even before ISIS arrival. Looting the cities’ resources including the bank of Mosul reserves and smuggling the ancient artifacts and oil, the group gained considerable cash to fund its operations that pushed for its dream of setting up a caliphate. ISIS collapse process started in 2016 with the beginning of the Iraqi army operations against the terror fighters. Up to the end of 2017, all of the Iraqi regions were freed from the ISIS and the group’s areas of control remained limited to parts of eastern Syria. Currently, ISIS presence is limited to the small village of Baghouz in Deir ez-Zor province. The village is expected to be recaptured from the terrorists within days to put an end to the ISIS in Syria too.
ISIS after Syria and Iraq
For many, the ISIS fate after the defeat in Iraq and then Syria is a point of a major focus.
Apparently, the current situation in the region is different from the time when ISIS announced its campaign. The Syrian and Iraqi governments now carry a big experience of anti-terror fight as they were helped by their ally Iran to obliterate ISIS. More importantly, the anti-terror fight led to the organization and expansion of affiliates of the Iran-led Axis of Resistance across the region. Now the resistant groups have a widespread presence in Iraq and Syria, in a way incomparable to 2011 to 2014. So, the national governments’ war experience beside the resistant groups’ help is a key empowering force that makes practically unlikely any ISIS return to the two countries.
However, some say ISIS, after the heavy defeats in its two strongholds, is relocating to Afghanistan, and even the Philippines and East Asia. Despite the fact that the Afghan government’s weakness allows for revival of ISIS in the war-torn country, many insist that the country’s home atmosphere does not approve of ISIS emergence. Taliban, a key opponent to ISIS, has already started its confrontation of the terror organization.
On the other hand, among the East Asian nations, the Philippines has proven to be a suitable ground for the growth of ISIS. The group started its recruitment there a couple of years ago. But Manila is strongly confronting ISIS rise. Like in West Asia, the group is expected to get a tough response from East Asian countries, something stripping it from the chance to reorganize.
But as an extremist ideology, ISIS will never disappear. Despite claims of fighting it by the West, some Western public minds are still ready to welcome this fundamentalist ideology, mainly by citizens disappointed by their governments. So, it seems that one of the key challenges for the Western leaders is to find out how to face this extremist ideology in their countries, though the group is devoid of territorial control and organization.