Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام
ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām
FounderAbu Musab al-Zarqawi [3]
Dates of operation
  • 1999: Established under the name of Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad
  • October 2004: Joined al-Qaeda
  • 13 October 2006: Declaration of an Islamic state in Iraq
  • 8 April 2013: Claim of territory in the Levant
  • 3 February 2014:[16] Separated from al-Qaeda:[17]
  • 29 June 2014: Declaration of caliphate
  • 13 November 2014: Claim of territory in Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
  • 29 January 2015: Claim of territory in South Asia[18]
  • 12 March 2015: Claim of territory in Nigeria[19]
  • 23 June 2015: Claim of territory in North Caucasus[20]
  • 20 July 2017: Recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces
  • 17 October 2017: Capture of Raqqa by SDF forces
  • 23 March 2019: Loses all of its territory in Syria
  • 27 October 2019: Killing of Baghdadi:
Active regionsTerritoires de l'Etat islamique juin 2015.png
ISIL's territory, in grey, at the time of its greatest territorial extent (May 2015).[29]
Map legend
  •   Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
  •   Syrian government
  •   Lebanese government
  •   Iraqi Kurdistan forces
  •   Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)
  • Note: Iraq and Syria contain large desert areas with sparse populations. These areas are mapped as under the control of forces holding roads and towns within them.
List of combatant numbers
  • Inside Syria and Iraq:
    • 200,000[42][43] (2015 claim by Iraqi Kurdistan Chief of Staff)
    • 100,000[44][43] (2015 Jihadist claim)
    • 28,600–31,600[45] (2016 Defense Department estimate)
    • 35,000–100,000[46] (State Department estimate)
  • Outside Syria and Iraq: 32,600–57,900 (See Military activity of ISIL for more detailed estimates.)
  • Estimated total: 61,200–257,900
Civilian population
  • In 2015 (near max extent): 8–12 million[47][48]
AlliesSee section
OpponentsState opponents

Non-state opponents


Full list...

Battles and warsthe Iraq War (2003–2011), the Iraqi insurgency, the Syrian Civil War, the Iraqi Civil War, the Second Libyan Civil War, the Boko Haram insurgency, the War in North-West Pakistan, the War in Afghanistan, the Yemeni Civil War, and other conflicts
Primary target of Operation Inherent Resolve and of the military intervention against ISIL in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Nigeria

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL; /ˈsəl, ˈsɪl/), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS; /ˈsɪs/),[88] officially known as the Islamic State (IS) and also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh (داعش, Dāʿish, IPA: [ˈdaːʕɪʃ]),[89] is a former unrecognized proto-state[90] that follows a Salafi jihadist doctrine.[91] ISIL was founded in 1999 by Jordanian Salafi jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi under the name Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad and gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive,[92] followed by its capture of Mosul[93] and the Sinjar massacre.[94]

The group has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations. ISIL is known for its videos of beheadings and other types of executions[95] of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites.[96] The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for committing human rights abuses, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.[97] The Islamic State committed genocide and ethnic cleansing on a historic scale in northern Iraq.[98][99]

ISIL originated in 1999 as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces at the behest of the United States. In June 2014, the group proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate[100][101] and began referring to itself as the Islamic State (الدولة الإسلامية ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah; IS).[102] As a caliphate, it claimed religious, political, and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.[103] Its adoption of the name Islamic State and its idea of a caliphate have been criticised, with the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups vehemently rejecting its statehood.[104]

In Syria, the group conducted ground attacks on both government forces and opposition factions, and by December 2015, it held an area extending from western Iraq to eastern Syria, containing an estimated eight to twelve million people,[47][48][105] where it enforced its interpretation of sharia law. ISIL is believed to be operational in 18 countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, with "aspiring branches" in Mali, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines.[106] In 2015, ISIL was estimated to have an annual budget of more than US$1 billion and a force of more than 30,000 fighters.[107]

In mid-2014, an international coalition led by the United States intervened against ISIL in Syria and Iraq with an airstrike campaign, in addition to supplying advisors, weapons, training, and supplies to ISIL's enemies in the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces. This campaign reinvigorated the latter two forces and dealt a blow to the nascent Islamist proto-state, killing tens of thousands of its troops[108] and damaging its financial and military infrastructure.[109] This was followed by a smaller-scale Russian intervention exclusively in Syria, in which ISIL lost thousands more fighters to airstrikes, cruise missile attacks, and other Russian military activities and had its financial base even further degraded.[110] In July 2017, the group lost control of its largest city, Mosul, to the Iraqi army, followed by the loss of its de facto political capital of Raqqa to the Syrian Democratic Forces.[citation needed] ISIL continued to lose territory to the various military forces allied against it.[111] By December 2017, the Islamic State controlled just 2% of its maximum territory (in May 2015).[112] In December 2017, Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of the Islamic State underground, three years after the group captured about a third of Iraq's territory.[113] By March 2019, ISIL lost one of their last significant territories in the Middle East in the Deir ez-Zor campaign, surrendering their "tent city" and pockets in Al-Baghuz Fawqani to the Syrian Democratic Forces after the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani.[28]

On 31 October 2019, ISIL media announced that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was the new leader of the Islamic State,[114] after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself by detonating a suicide vest during the US Barisha raid in the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province of Syria four days previously.[115][116][117]

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