The emptiness left by the inneffective governments of Iraq and Syria has allowed the Islamic State fighters to run wild with little opposition. According to the Pentagon, since the begining of heavy US involvement in the conflict in August 2014 the United States has hit and/or destroyed at least 6,278 Islamic State targets. This number includes 1,779 buildings, 1,415 fighting positions, 77 tanks, and 288 Humvees. From the begining of the air campaign until present day, there have been over 7,300 air strikes carried out against the Islamic State by the U.S. led anti-ISIS coaltiion.
President Barack Obama referred to the Islamic State as a "cancer" on August 26, 2014, and stated that the time has come to "take the fight to these barbaric terrorists". The United States launched more air strikes against the IS militants and has authorized 1,100 troops into Iraq. US forces were given a mission to seek out and eliminate IS leaders, effectively "cutting the head off of the snake" and leaving the IS flailing and unorganized. The United States assembled a team of allies to formulate a plan and provide support in defeating the IS, and these allies include: Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Britain and Australia have provided aid to the US in an aerial campaign, Turkey has strategically placed military installations that will give US forces bases to launch operations out of, and Jordan has inteligence information that will prove useful for defeating the Islamic State menace. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has also thrown his support behind US led efforts to decimate the Islamic State.
The U.S. Defense Department released an assessment on December 15, 2015, which detailed the cost of operations against the Islamic State. Between the begining of official operations against ISIS on August 8, 2014, and November 15, 2015, the United States spent $5.2 billion on the conflict, averaging $11 million per day. The United States conducted 6,846 air strikes in Iraq and Syria against ISIS targets within that time frame as well. The rest of the coalition conducted 1,937. In total, the U.S. led coalition against ISIS damaged or destroyed 16,075 ISIS targets between August 8, 2014, and November 15, 2015.
The Pentagon released a report in April 2016 stating that the bombing campaign carried out by the United States and allies had killed 25,000 Islamic State militants since the campaign began. Despite these casualties the report clarified that the Islamic State still boasts anywhere from 20,000-30,000 fighters. Their numbers have not changed significantly, as they are still receiving a relatively steady stream of fighters through poorly patrolled borders.
According to monitoring group Airwars, as of March 2017 the U.S. led coalition against ISIS has killed at least 2,590 civilians. The coalition however estimates the number to be approximately 10% of this amount, and claims that their strikes have caused only 220 civilian deaths.
After the Iraqi Parliament's approval on September 8, 2014, of the new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the United States felt comfortable carrying out increased air strikes and military operations against IS in Iraq because of increased political stability in the country.
On September 10 President Barack Obama addressed the United States in a special speech specifically dedicated to the threat posed by the Islamic State. The President vowed that "we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIS through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy". This strategy includes expanding air strikes (as of the speech 150 air strikes had been carried out), and supporting Iraqi and Kurd focres on the ground. The President assured the American people that there is not going to be another large scale ground war against the Islamic State, but troops are being sent in to provide training, equipment, and support to the international troops fighting the terrorists. The United States will also provide assistance to innocent civilians in the combat zones, and continue to do everything in it's power to stop IS funding sources. To read the full statement, please click here. (The White House, September 10 2014)
In response to growing criticism regarding the civilian casualties inflicted by these US led air strikes, the Obama administration released a statement on October 1 that the strict "near certainty" operations standards that were imposed by them in the previous year to prevent civilian casualties from drone strikes will not apply to the current situation. The voice of criticism became too loud for the administration to ignore after an estimated dozen civilians were killed by a Tomahawk missile in Syria's Idlib province on September 23. The statement released by the administration details that the "near certainty" policy was only to apply to areas that are outside of the current hot zone of the conflict, when the United States takes military action in areas "outside of direct hostilities". (Yahoo News, October 1, 2014)
Air strikes have been the method of choice for US involvement in the fight against ISIS, but without boots on the ground the West would be fighting a losing battle. A small group of Syrian rebels known as the Mujahideen Army have been given US training and weaponry, and the members say that they can tell the difference. Fifty fighters from the Mujahideen Army were trained in Syria by US forces in September 2014. They learned how to fire mortars and heavy machine guns, and were taught battlefield tactics. The United States announced plans in late 2014 to arm and train more Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State. As of July 2015 there were approximately 7,000 Syrian rebels waiting to be evaluated and trained by the U.S. forces. The United States has made mistakes in past conflicts by arming rebel groups who have turned around and used the weaponry and training against US forces in the future, so the Syrian rebels will be subjected to a very rigorous and thorough testing and evaluation process before they begin their training. According to US officials this screening process will include (but is not limited to) cross-checking potential trainee names with US and foreign intelligence databases, collecting biometric data on the potential trainees, conducting interviews with locals about the general behavior and demeanor of the individuals, and seeking other information from their home communities. The training program is based on a levels system, with continuous and constant evaluations possibly leading to the rebels recieving more specialized training and "moving up" to different weapons and training programs. (The Washington Post, November 28 2014)
On October 3, 2014, the United States State Department and Department of Defense launched seperate informational websites aimed at countering the Islamic State. These sites provide the most up to date public information on the coalition to defeat ISIS, and the military aspects of this operation. The State Department website can be found here, and the Department of Defense site can be found here.
It was revealed in early November 2014 that during the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 President Obama wrote a secret letter to Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei expressing their mutual interest in defeating the Islamic State. Cooperation between the United States and Iran is extremely rare, and the nuclear negotiations during 2014 represent the most sustained period of diplomacy between the two countries since 1979's Islamic Revolution. This is the fourth letter that Obama has written to Khamenei, and these suggest that the United States is genuinely interested in pursuing a mutually beneficial relationship with Iran with further cooperation if the nuclear issue is sorted out.
On Friday November 7 President Barack Obama authorized a doubling of the number of US troops in Iraq, bringing the number to 3,100. This announcement of an additional 1,500 troops to be sent into Iraq comes amid a shift in the United States strategy in dealing with the Islamic State. President Obama announced that the US was going to be going on the offensive against the Islamic State now that air strikes have degraded some of their capabilities, but stood by the fact that US troops will not be involved in combat against ISIS. These additional troops will serve to advise and assist Iraqi security forces in planning counteroffensives to the brutal Islamic State militants. In order to pay for this, the White House announced that they were asking Congress for an additional $5.6 billion in supplimental funding for 2015.
On January 15, 2015, it was announced that the Pentagon will be sending an additional 400 US military trainers and hundreds of other support personnel to Syria in order to aid the rebel forces in stabalizing Syria and defeating the Islamic State. These military trainers will put the rebel forces through a 6-8 week training cycle, with the hopes that these soldiers will be well equiped to fight the Islamic State due to their grasp on the local terrain and battlefield dynamics.
On February 10, 2015, President Barack Obama submitted a draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) letter to lawmakers. The letter states that ISIS “ poses a grave threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, regional stability, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners,” outlines the duration of the authorization, and details the president's power to mobilize the country's armed forces. The draft imposes a three year time limit on military operations, and repeals President Bush's 2002 authorization for the war in Iraq. To read the full draft AUMF, click here.
During the week of February 23, 2015, US military supplies worth $17.9 million flowed into Iraq to arm their security forces in the fight against ISIS. These supplies included over 10,000 M-16 rifles, 250 armored and mine-resistant vehicles, thousands of Kevlar helmets and body armor, and 232 hellfire missiles. American troops will begin training 20,000-25,000 Iraqi security forces in mid-2015 to use this equipment.
It was announced at the end of March 2015 that the US Army's 5th Special Forces Group, who ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, would be sent into Jordan to establish an international special operations task force to equip and train Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. This program will be run in tandem with other government rebel training programs in Jordan, Syria, and Iraq.
President Obama sent a formal request for Congressional Authorization to fight the Islamic State to Congress in early 2015, and in March it was clear that partisan differences about an issue that was once a bipartisan sticking point were the primary reason that it had not been approved yet. Republicans in Congress believed that the authorization limited the President's authority to send in ground troops and was not enough, and Democrats believed that the request was too much and would get the United States involved in another long, unwinable war in the Middle East. Basic U.S. military operations had been going on against ISIS for months, and according to Secretary of State Kerry, “The president already has statutory authority to act against ISIS. But a clear and formal expression of this Congress’s backing at this moment in time would dispel doubts that might exist anywhere that Americans are united in this effort.”(New York Times, March 12, 2015)
For the first time since the air campaign began 9 months prior, in the begining of May 2015 the United States admitted that the air strikes that they led against the Islamic State had killed at least two civilians. Global human rights groups alleged that these air strikes had in fact killed hundreds of civilians, but there were no professionals in the area to assess the situations. Airwars, a project run by a team of independent journalists, released a report in early August 2015, containing details of approximately 52 air strikes carried out by the allied coalition forces. These strikes resulted in the deaths of at least 459 civilians, including 100 children, according to the report. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the civilian death toll due to U.S. strikes at more than 200.
In the first U.S. executed targetted raid since the begining of the fight against the Islamic State, a small group of American special forces entered Syrian airspace early on May 16, and carried out a home raid that left a senior ISIS official as well as a dozen other ISIS fighters dead. The man killed in the operation, Abu Sayyaf, was described as the “emir of oil and gas” for the Islamic State. The U.S. government spent an extended period of time gathering intelligence on Sayyaf and his whereabouts prior to the execution of the raid.
The United States army approved the assignment to Iraq of approximately 450 military personnel in June 2015. These soldiers will assist the Iraqi army in defeating the Islamic State by providing training and strategic coordination.
In mid-July 2015 it was revealed that the United States military was in talks to build bases to launch surveilance drones from several North African countries in order to better monitor the activities of the Islamic State. Counterterrorism officials stated that having a drone base in a country like Libya would significantly improve one of the U.S.'s major “blind spots” in the battle against ISIS.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced to Reuters on August 24, 2015, that Turkey and the United States, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan, had reached a comprehensive plan to combat the Islamic State following long and detailed diplomatic talks. The plan involved funding and arming supposed moderate Syrian rebels and providing air cover as they flush the Islamic State out of Syria, while at the same time harshly restricting access to Turkish borders. Hours after the announcement of the conclusion of talks however, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest denied the allegations of an agreement. Earnest stated during his daily press briefing that the negotiations with Turkey and other Mediterranean allies were ongoing and had not reached an agreement yet. Washington announced that the agreement had been completed 4 days later, on August 28, 2015.
A special report published in The Washington Post on September 1, 2015, provided a glimpse into the secretive targetted killing program that the CIA and U.S. Special Operations Forces have been running against the Islamic State, seperate from the allied attacks. The program focuses solely on “high-value” targets, and drones flying over Syria participating in this operation were responsible for many strikes on high-profile Islamic State individuals during 2015. These targets included a militant who was linked to two Muslim gunmen who attacked people at a Mohammad drawing contest in Garland, Texas.
Despite months of training efforts by U.S. Special Forces, in September 2015 United States security officials embarassingly admitted that there were only “four or five” U.S. trained rebels in Syria fighting against the Islamic State. An additional approximately 100 rebels were receiving training in Turkey at the time of the announcement. The remaining rebels of the 60 that were trained earlier this year had all been captured or killed by the Islamic State. The week after U.S. officials issued this forlorn assessment, 75 more U.S. trained Syrian rebels entered Syria to fight against the Islamic State.
The United States made the decision to suspend the Syrian rebel training program on October 9, 2015, in the wake of continuing dissapointments and news that the rebels had been widely unsuccessful. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters at a press conference that, “we are looking at different ways to achieve the same strategic objectives,” and the administration is still committed to fighting the Islamic State. (CNN, October 9, 2015) Reports during November alleged that the United States spent $2 million training each fighter, according to spending figures and interviews with officials.
The week after officially suspending the Syrian rebel training program, U.S. cargo planes dropped 50 tons of ammunition and other various supplies to rebels in Syria fighting against the Islamic State and Assad's government. According to official sources all supplies were recovered by friendly forces in the Syrian Arab Coalition.
United States commandos and Kurdish Peshmerga forces carried out a secretive mission to rescue individuals who were being held hostage by the Islamic State and faced “imminent execution,” on October 21, 2015. One U.S. soldier was killed during the operation, which rescued over 70 individuals held hostage by ISIS. The soldier that was killed was the first American combat death in Iraq since November 2011, and the ensuing firefight with the jihadis marked the first time ever that U.S. forces have stepped into ground combat against ISIS fighters. More than 20 ISIS fighters were killed in the rescue mission, and six were captured. During the following week U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made it clear that missions like this would become more frequent in the future, as the U.S. re-evaluates it's strategy to combat ISIS. During late October 2015 it became clear that leaders in Washington were heavily considering a push for more active combat roles for U.S. soldiers in the fight against the Islamic State.
The United States announced the authorization of the first sustained deployment of ground troops to Syria on October 30, 2015, as seventeen world powers met to discuss ending the Syrian civil war. According to U.S. officials, President Obama issued an authorization for the deployment of “fewer than 50” U.S. special forces into Northern Syria, who will assist the local fighters battling ISIS and Assad's forces. In addition to ground forces, Washington will be sending A-10 planes as well as F-15 fighter jets to the Incirlik air base in Southern Turkey as part of the new strategy to defeat ISIS.
From October 30 to November 6, 2015, the United States carried out 56 air strikes against ISIS targets, after running only three strikes during the previous 5 days. October 2015 saw only 117 air-strikes inside of Syria total, one of the calmest months of the whole conflict. In addition to the escalation of the air-war in Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told ABC News on November 8, 2015, that there could “absolutely” be more U.S. troops on the ground fighting ISIS in the near future. Carter said that, “if we find additional groups that are willing to fight ISIL and are capable and motivated, we'll do more. The President has indicated a willingness to do more, I certainly am prepared to recommend he do more.” (ABC News, November 8, 2015)
U.S. airstrikes killed the man known as Jihadi John, who had been featured in ISIS propaganda videos, in Raqqa on November 12, 2015. The next day U.S. airstrikes killed the leader of the ISIS affiliate in Libya, Wisam al Zubaidi. The killing of Jihadi John was not confirmed by ISIS until January 20, 2016, two months after the strike ended his life.
President Obama vowed that he would intensify all aspects of the U.S. military strategy to defeat ISIS in the wake of the November 13, 2015, Paris terror attacks. Ramped up efforts to attack the oil funding sources of the Islamic State began in mid-October 2015, with the United States carrying out air strikes that destroyed three oil refineries and 116 ISIS oil tankers parked near an Iraqi border crossing during early November. Up until this point in the conflict the United States had been cautious about striking oil facilities and trucks, because they were still technically property of the Syrian people. However, following the Paris attack and an increase in global commitment to defeat ISIS, the United States began air strikes against Syrian oil facilities. During November 2015, the U.S. led coalition carried out over a dozen air strikes against the Dayr Az Zawr oil facility and the Abu Kamal oil collection point. It is estimated that 2/3 of the Islamic State's oil revenues come from within the Dayr Az Zawr region, South-East of Raqqa. U.S. led coalition spokesman Colonel Steve Warren stated during a press conference on November 13, 2015, that, “We realized we needed to re-look how we were targeting these oil facilities... we want them broken longer. Rather than 24 to 48 hours, we’re looking at something that would take maybe a year to repair.” (Yahoo News, November 16, 2015) On November 20, 2015, U.S. led coalition air strikes destroyed 283 Islamic State fuel trucks. U.S. defense officials estimated that this increased bombing campaign focused on the oil revenues of ISIS, which began in October 2015, reduced their income from oil sales by approximately 30%.
U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for increasing U.S. involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in November 2015, suggesting that the U.S. send special operations forces to assist Syrian rebels and Kurdish militias, expand air strikes, and implement a no-fly-zone with coalition forces over Syria. Clinton referred to her plan as an “intensification and acceleration” of President Obama's strategy, criticizing him for acting too slowly in arming moderate rebels. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Clinton stated “it is time to begin a new phase and intensify and broaden our efforts to smash the would-be caliphate and deny ISIS control of territory in Iraq and Syria.” (New York Times, November 19, 2015)
President Obama gave a rare speech from the Oval Office addressing the topic of the fight against the Islamic State on December 6, 2015, vowing to overcome the new face of terror in our world. The President announced no grand shift in strategy or policy, and continued to insist that air strikes along with the international coalition were going to be successful in defeating the jihadis.
A poll of Mosul residents during December 2015 yielded surprising results as support for ISIS grew to 39%, as opposed to 10% in June 2014. The survey also revealed that civilians living in Mosul under the control of ISIS view U.S. coalition air strikes as a larger threat to their families safety and security (45.8%) than ISIS jihadists (37.5%). Sixty percent of Mosul residents polled said they believed there is a conspiracy by the U.S. government to support the Islamic State.
Using an new tactic, United States air strikes targeted ISIS currency storage facilities in January 2016, destroying buildings serving as store-houses for money the group was using to pay it's fighters. Officials involved in planning the strikes claimed that the bombs dropped on the locations destroyed millions of dollars belonging to the terrorist organization. On January 21, 2016, the U.S. government said they had bombed nine of these facilites during the preceeding week. The same week, Islamic State leaders announced a 50% pay cut for all fighters. It was revealed in April 2016 that approximately $800 million in ISIS cash stockpiles had been destroyed through these strikes.
U.S. troops took control of Rmeilan airfield in Syria's Hasakah province from the U.S. backed YPGon January 21, 2016. The U.S. military struck a deal with YPG officials to begin using the base as a launching point for airstrikes against the Islamic State.
On February 18, 2016, U.S. warplanes engaged in their second strike in Libya of the year, targetting senior Tunisian ISIS commander Noureddine Chouchane. Chouchane was wanted in connection to 2015 terror attacks on a Tunisian museum and beach resort. The planes struck at 3:30am local time and killed 41 individuals, mostly Tunisian ISIS operatives.
The American role in Iraq and Syria expanded from purely security to combat support in early 2016, as U.S. Marines provided targetting and other assistance to Iraqi troops pushing ISIS out of major cities. Marines provided cover fire for Iraqi forces, and fired illumination rounds to assist the Iraqis in locating ISIS fighters. The Marines began firing artillery rounds as part of an Iraqi army offensive, as opposed to firing to protect the troops and U.S. advisors on March 24, 2016, signalling a change in strategy.
On March 24, 2016, the Pentagon confirmed that U.S. air strikes over the past weeks had killed ISIS Finance Minister Haji Iman, and ISIS senior leader Omar al-Shishani. Haji Iman was widely known to be second in command of the Islamic State organization, overseeing the funding and black market networks of the group. Iman managed the daily operations for most of Syria, Iraq, and Libya, and was allegedly close friends with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Shishani's death was confirmed by the group in July 2016.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, recommended on March 28, 2016, that the United States expand their combat role against the Islamic State. The experts cited our need to assist in a complicated, large-scale offensive effort to defeat ISIS undertaken by the Iraqi military. General Dunford stated during a press briefing that the United States needs to “enable support for the Iraqi security forces,” which will entail an “increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks.” (Military Times, March 28, 2016)
The United States deployed a fleet of B-52 bombers to Qatar on April 10, 2016, to aid in the fight against ISIS. This is the first time that B-52 bombers have been stationed in the Middle East since the Gulf War in 1991.
U.S. Officials at the Penatgon approved airstrikes risking more civilian casualties on April 19, 2016. According to the new rules, in certain situations the probability of 10 civilian casualties would be permitted.
During a press conference on April 25, 2016, President Obama outlined a plan to enhance the capabilities of U.S. Special Operations forces in Syria. The President announced a raise in the number of Special Operations troops to be deployed in Syria to 250, adding to the 50 that are currently there. Emphasis was placed on the fact that these troops will more than likely not be involved in combat operations, but will be training and equiping local forces.
According to U.S. Defense Officials, U.S. Special Operations forces carried out secretive missions that killed 40 ISIS “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators,” during late 2015 and early 2016. These ISIS operatives had been involved in the 2016 Brussels bombings, the 2015 Paris attacks, and other attacks in Egypt, Africa, and the Middle East. Most of these individuals were killed in Syria by special operations combat aircraft. (Daily Beast, April 28, 2016)
A U.S. led coalition air strike killed well-known Islamic State militant Abu Waheeb on May 6, destroying the car that he was travelling in. Waheeb was a former computer science student and member of al-Qaeda in Iraq who had been previously captured and held in prison by U.S. forces. Islamic State images and recruitment propaganda prominently featured Abu Waheeb, and he was one of the most easily recognizable members of the group.
United States defense officials confirmed in May 2016 that U.S. military drone surveilance flights had been happening over Libya for over a year. Pentagon officials acknowledged U.S. Special Forces in Libya had been meeting with government officials, and been involved in operations around Tripoli and Misrata.
For the first time since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States deployed two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean sea in June 2016. These ships, the USS Harry S. Truman and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, launched coordinated strikes against Islamic State targets in the region, providing support to local militias and the Iraqi army.
While speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in mid-June 2016, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that in his opinion Iranian involvement in Iraq was helping the United States in the fight against ISIS. Kerry stated, using a different name for the terrorist group, that “I can tell you that Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh.” The Secretary of State went on to say that Iran and the United States seem to have common goals in Iraq of defeating the Islamic State. (CNN, June 28, 2016)
Following the Iraqi army's recapture of Fallujah and the surrounding areas in late-June 2016, Islamic State fighters fled the city, only to be met with U.S.-led airstrikes. On June 29, 2016, an estimated 250 Islamic State militants were killed in airstrikes outside Fallujah; one of the most significant victories ever in the fight against the terror group. A convoy of 120 Islamic State vehicles moving East of Ramadi was also hit with air-strikes on June 29.
U.S. officials announced on July 11, 2016, that they would be sending an additional 560 troops into Iraq to train and equip the Iraqi military, bringing the total number of U.S. service members in the country to 4,647.
The U.S. State Department approved the sale of over $785 million in bombs, consisting of 14,640 bombs and guidance kits, to the United Arab Emirates in July 2016 to be used in the fight against the Islamic State.
U.S. warplanes carried out strikes against the ISIS affiliate in Libya for the third time on August 1, 2016. The coalition against ISIS launched the strikes, which inflicted serious damage on the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, at the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord. As opposed to the two previous individual air strikes, U.S. officials stated that this marked the begining of an extended campaign against the jihadists in Libya. These air strikes continued through August and September 2016, and were extended by President Obama for a third month in October.
Special Operations forces from the U.S. and U.K., began providing direct ground support to local fighters battling the Islamic State in Libya during the second week of August 2016. The Americans, according to anonymous security officials, were embedded with the troops in Sirte to coordinate air strikes and relay intelligence information, and were not involved in combat.
The United States conducted air strikes on ISIS oil trucks on August 10, 2016, destroying an estimated $11 million worth of oil and 83 trucks belonging to the jihadists.
A reward of $3 million was offered by the U.S. State Department on August 30, 2016, for any information regarding the whereabouts of ISIS leader Gulmurod Khalimov. A former colonel and sniper in Tajikistan's special operations forces and employee of the Tajikistan Ministry of the Interior, Khalimov is known worldwide as a top ISIS recruiter. The U.S. State Department named Khalimov a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 on September 30, 2015. Additionally, he is wanted by the government of Tajikistan as well as INTERPOL, and is sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council.
An additional 400 U.S. troops were deployed to Iraq during the second week of September 2016, bringing the total U.S. deployment in Iraq to 4,400 troops.
The United States and Russia brokered a temporary ceasefire deal between the Syrian regime and rebel forces on September 11, 2016. Although the ceasefire was violated almost immediately by rebel groups, the temporary lull in fighting allowed enough time for various organizations to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo and towns surrounding Raqqa. This ceasefire completely disintegrated during the first week of October, with the U.S. blaming Russia for not holding up it's end of the deal.
On September 14, 2016, American forces bombed and destroyed an ISIS chemical weapons production facility that had been converted from an Iraqi pharmaceutical plant.
United States officials issued an official apology on September 17, 2016, after acknowledging that their warplanes had carried out a strike in Syria that killed as many as 90 Syrian government troops. Pilots believed that they were attacking an Islamic State group that they had been tracking, and pulled back 20 minutes after the attack began when informed that the strikes may be hitting the Syrian military. Syrian government officials called the strike an act of “very serious and flagrant aggression.”
To support local forces in the battle for the recapture of Mosul, the U.S. military announced on September 29, 2016, that they would be placing an additional 600 troops in Iraq.
A U.S. led coalition airstrike in Raqqa killed a top ISIS operative in charge of the group's “external networks throughout the Middle East” on November 12, 2016. The Jihadi, Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi, was an Iraqi national who had a hand in planning many terror attacks over the previous years in Turkey and other Middle-Eastern countries.
The Islamic State was finally driven out of their main Libyan stronghold, Sirte, by Libyan Misrata brigades backed by U.S. airstrikes on December 5, 2016.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated during a press conference on December 10, 2016, that the U.S. would be sending an additional 200 troops to Syria; nearly doubling the U.S. military commitment in the country.
U.S. African Command (Africom) announced the conclusion of U.S. involvement fighting ISIS in Libya on December 21, 2016. The statement, released via twitter, claims that Africom carried out 495 precision air strikes against ISIS targets in Sirte, and in conjunction with the Liyan Government of National Accord was successful in driving ISIS out of the city.
U.S. troops carried out a ground-operation aimed at capturing Islamic State soldiers for interrogation in the Eastern-Syria city of Deir al-Zour on January 9, 2016. The troops landed stealthily in helicopters, engaged in combat with ISIS militants, and left after approximately 90 minutes with captives and bodies. No American troops were injured or killed during the raid.
The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived on the outskirts of Raqqa, Syria on March 8, 2017, ready to support U.S.-backed Syrian rebels in their fight to take back the city.
On March 22, 2017, the United States engaged in it's first air assault in Syria against the Islamic State in an attempt to cut off supply lines to the ISIS capital, Raqqa.
Purportedly trying to strike an ISIS-held building, in early March 2017 a U.S.-backed airstrike in Mosul killed an estimated 200 civilians. American military commanders took responsibility for the strike during the subsequent days, as it was revealed that it would represent one of the worst ever civilian death tolls from an American military operation in Iraq. International conflict monitoring group Airwars announced that this strike marked the 1,000th reported civilian casualty event associated with the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. Officials at Airwars stated that
civilian casualties rose during the last months of the Obama administration and are now accelerating... under the presidency of Donald Trump. In 2015 Airwars researchers looked into 261 civilian casualty incidents. In 2016 that number almost doubled, and 454 cases were investigated. According to a report issued by the monitoring group in March 2017, at least 2,590 and as many as 9,200 civilians have been killed by coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since the conflict began in 2014.
The United States dropped the second largest non-nuclear weapon in it's arsenal on Islamic State targets in Afghanistan on April 13, 2017. The ordinance, known as the MOAB or Mother of all Bombs, weighs 22,000 lbs and is the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat. In comparison, most bombs dropped by the U.S. military weigh between 250 and 2,000 lbs. The bomb destroyed a suspected Islamic State tunnel complex, and killed approximately 36 ISIS militants.
In the worst friendly-fire incident of the fight against ISIS, a U.S. drone strike killed 18 U.S.-backed Syrian allied forces on April 11, 2017. Allegedly the mistake occured after other Syrian forces falsely identified the group as a potential group of ISIS fighters, and requested an air-strike on their location.
Two American soldiers, Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, were killed by friendly fire during an anti-ISIS operation in Afghanistan on April 28, 2017.
David Cameron stated in response to the video released of David Haines execution that members of the Islamic State are "not Muslims, they are monsters". The British Prime Minister vowed on September 14, 2014,to "drive back, dismantle, and ultimately destroy ISIL and what it stands for". The release of this execution video prompted the British officials to heavily consider increased involvement in the fight to combat the Islamic State. On Monday October 20, Britain authorized surveilance missions over Syria in order to protect their own national interests. These surveilance missions were carried out by unmanned and armed drones and spy planes. The armed drone operators require special permission from higher-ups in order to use the firepower on their drones. . (The LA Times, September 14 2014)
The leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel expressed shame in and verbally attacked the Arab countries who have supported US actions against the Islamic State. Sheikh Raed Salah referred to the US led coalition that includes multiple Arab countries in the region as "a coalition of evil aimed at destroying what is left of Syria and Iraq". Although Salah condemned the actions of the Islamic State he claims that the actions taken by IS do not warrant the response that the US is laying out. (Haaretz, September 13 2014)
According to US diplomats, Israel aided the United States in carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State by providing intelligence information to US forces operating in the region. Israeli satelites over Iraq have provided anti-Islamic State forces with vital information to plan their strategy. The Israeli intelligence community also provided a list of Western citizens who reportedly have travelled to Iraq to join the Islamic State, after analyzing travel record databases.
In response to the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in France that left 12 people dead and terrified the country for three days, on January 13 the French Parliament overwhelmingly approved the continuation of air strikes against the Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged Parliament to approve the continued engagement of ISIS, saying that "our mission is not over... we are faced with a war against terrorism." The vote to continue fighting ISIS passed 488-1 in the French Parliament and recieved 327 votes in favor with 19 abstaining in the Senate. (Yahoo News, January 13 2015)
Top representatives from 21 countries convened in London on January 22 2015 to strategize about how to defeat the Islamic State and deal with the growing threat of "homegrown jihadis" around the world. The forum was co-hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Phil Hammond, and was the first meeting of the coalition fighting against ISIS since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in early January. A main focus of the meeting was the discussion of how to stop the flow of foreign fighters pouring into Syria and Iraq. At the meeting Kerry announced that the US led coalition had killed 50% of ISIS top commanders, and the number of Islamic State militants killed was in the "single-digit thousands." (Ynet News, January 22, 2015)
The brutal killing of Jordanian First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh and subsequent release of his execution video provoked a strong reaction from Jordan, who's King Abdullah alluded that he may personally take part in the bombing runs of the terrorist group (he was trained as a pilot in the Jordanian Air Force). King Abdullah declared that "the only problem we're going to have is running out of fuel and bullets," and quoted the Clint Eastwood film "Unforgiven", stating that "Any man I see out there, I'm gonna kill him." Less than 12 hours after the video of Kasabeh's execution was released, Jordan executed two of their own captured terrorists whose release had been demanded by ISIS. Jordan promised "swift retribution" for the killing, and during the following days the Jordanian Air Force carried out bombing raids against the Islamic State, killing more than 100 fighters and damaging many of their fighting positions. The killing of Kasabeh brought condemnation by many Islamic scholars, including the head of Sunni Islam's most prestigious higher learning institution, Egypt's Al-Azhar University. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the "grand Imam" of Al-Azhar University, recommended "the Koran-prescribed punishment of death" for the ISIS fighters, which amounts to either crucifixion or the cutting off of their arms.
The Jordainain military conducted aggressive and devastating air-strikes against the Islamic State in retalliation for the brutal killing of captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh during the first week of February 2015. Jordanian officials promised swift retribution for the murder, and carried out more than 56 air strikes against ISIS positions during the weekend of February 7. The United Arab Emirates sent a squad of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan that same weekend in attempts to boost the military effort. Earlier in the campaign the UAE had suspended air support, fearing that there was not an adequate search-and-rescue protocol for downed pilots. The UAE's official news agency released a statement saying that they “reaffirm [their] unwavering and constant solidarity with Jordan.” On February 10, 2015, the Jordanian government announced that they had moved thousands of ground troops to the Jordan-Iraq border to prevent ISIS fighters from entering Jordan and as a show of force.
Militants affiliated with the Tripoli Province of Islamic State posted a video of them beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on an unidentified beach in Libya via the Islamic State's official media accounts on February 15, 2015. The group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014. The video is very well put together, similar to their other videos, and shows the Christians being marched wearing orange jumpsuits by ISIS fighters wearing black robes and facial coverings. The black masked jihadis then behead all 21 victims after pushing them into the sand. The Egyptian government bombed Islamic militant positions in Derna, Libya the following day in response, which provoked a wave of car-bomb attacks from the militants on the Libyan city of Qubbah in retaliation. The car bombs were detonated at a gas station, killed 40 people, and injured more than 70.
New Zealand officially joined the coalition fight against the Islamic State with the approval of a measure sending ground troops into Iraq on February 23, 2015. Citing a dramatic increase over the past year in New Zealanders who are considered possible terrorist risks, Prime Minister John Key told opposition members to "get some guts!"
It was revealed in mid-March 2015 that Iran had provided Iraqi troops fighting ISIS in Tikrit with missiles, rockets, and other smaller munitions.
Asserting that "increased military support is a necessity," on April 8, 2015, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom announced that Sweden would be joining the coalition of countries fighting against the Islamic State. In order to help better prepare the Iraqi army, Sweden will send up to 120 troops into Northern Iraq with the task of training members Iraqi infantrymen.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Washington for the first time during his term in April 2015, to explore financial and military support options to aid his country in defeating the Islamic State. Falling oil revenues left Iraq with a $22 million budget deficit coming into 2015. Al-Abadi called for humanitarian assistance in the areas reclaimed from ISIS, and asked the international community to provide the Iraqi forces weapons and munitions on credit. During meetings with President Obama, Obama stressed that Iran needed to channel it's support for the fight against ISIS through Iraq instead of sporatically funding militias. The President announced a $200 million humanitarian aid package for Iraq, although reportedly during the meetings al-Abadi made no mention of an appeal for help or assistance. Though the aid package was substantial, the White House meeting did not produce any military commitments. Prior to visiting the United States, the Iraqi Prime Minister told reporters that the “Number one (goal of his visit) is a marked increase in the air campaign and the delivery of arms.” During his visit al-Abadi also met with 14 Iraqi pilots who were being trained in the United States to fly F-16's. These pilots will hopefully be ready to fly missions against the Islamic State in Iraq in September 2015 (The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2015).
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop travelled to Iran in April 2015, where she signed an intelligence sharing agreement with Iranian officials aimed at combatting the spread of the Islamic State. Bishop was the first Australian Foreign Minister to travel to Iran in over a decade. Officials reached an “informal arrangement whereby we'd share intelligence that would give us information on the Australians who are taking part,” according to Bishop (Yahoo News, April 19, 2015).
Saudi Arabia announced on April 28, 2015, that they had arrested 93 people within the previous months, accused of plotting terrorist attacks and having ties to the Islamic State. Saudi officials stated during a press conference that they had thwarted many attacks by arresting these individuals, including a planned attack on the U.S. Embassy in the Saudi Arabian capital.
Syrian air strikes killed at least 140 Islamic State fighters in Raqqa during the weekend of May 25, 2015. The Syrian army continued to bomb Islamic State positions in Raqqa during the following week, including the Taqba air base which had been overrun by ISIS fighters in August 2014.
Two top Islamic State commanders were killed by an air-strike in Northern Syria on July 13, but it was unclear whether the strike was carried out by the Syrian Army or the U.S. Air Force. The two victims were identified as Abu Osama al-Iraqi, and Amer al-Rafdan, Islamic State leaders in the area.
Turkey blocked access to websites that may be used by ISIS sympathizers on July 15, 2015, in an effort to curb the Islamic State's recruitment efforts.
Turkish officials announced on July 23, 2015 that they would begin allowing U.S. bombing runs against the Islamic State to fly out of the strategically located Incirlik air base in Southern Turkey. During the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government spent months negotiating with Turkish officials to let U.S. forces use the Incirlik air base, but they continually refused. This announcement was spurred by the continued spread of the Jihadi organization slowly into Turkey, and follows months of U.S. requests to use the base for military activities. The deal struck between Turkish and U.S. governments will allow manned and unmanned aircraft to launch from the base and carry out strikes against the Islamic State. This represents a significant shift for the Turkish government, who have been trying to have as little involvement in the conflict as possible. The announcement came during the week following a deadly suicide attack by an Islamic State supporter in Turkey that left 32 people dead and more than 100 wounded. As a part of this deal, the United States and Turkey began negotiating the establishment of a safe zone at the Turkey-Syria border. United States and Turkish forces planned to drive the Islamic State out of a stretch of land between the Euphrates River and Aleppo, which would give the coalition forces a strategic advantage and improve their strike capabilities. This area will potentially serve as a safe area for Syrian and Turkish refugees displaced by the conflict.
For the first time during the conflict, on July 24, 2015, Turkish F-16 fighter jets participated in carrying out bombing runs of ISIS positions in Syria.
U.S. strikes against the Islamic State launched out of Incirlik air base in Turkey for the first time during the first week of August 2015. Speaking about this historic event, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that, “Soon we will together [Turkey and the U.S.] start an extensive battle against Daesh.” (New York Times, August 5, 2015). During the second weekend in August, six U.S. F-16 fighter jets arrived at the Incirlik air base, ready to fight against the Islamic State.
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced during a press conference on September 7, 2015, that two British jihadis in Syria fighting for the Islamic State had been killed by a drone strike during the previous days. This represents a significant change for the United Kingdom, which had previously only been involved in ISIS bombing missions in Iraq. Cameron staged the press conference to clarify that the strike was necessary and justified.
French President Francois Hollande ordered the French military to prepare for extended air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria on September 9, 2015. The French military began reconnaissance flights over Syria during the following week. Informed by the surveilance gathered, the French Air Force began strike missions against the Islamic State in Syria during the weekend of September 26, 2015. These first strikes were made in conjunction with U.S. forces, and involved six French aircraft.
Russia joined Iraq, Iran, and Syria, in an intelligence and security cooperation agreement aimed at strenghthening the fight against the Islamic State, in late September 2015. The announcement of this security pact took U.S. officials by surprise, as they dealt with multiple setbacks in their campaign against ISIS.
Russia carried out their first airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State on September 29, 2015, allegedly targetting ISIS communications equipment, military vehicles, and ammunition stockpiles. Russian officials alerted U.S. military commanders of the mission early in the day, and advised them to keep the airspace clear. During a press conference the following day Russian President Vladimir Putin contended that the air engagement was temporary, and he would not be sending any Russian soldiers into Syria. During the following days it was confirmed that the Russian jets had not struck anywhere near any known Islamic State territory, and had instead carried out strikes on U.S. backed and trained rebels fighting against ISIS and Assad. Russia's actions over the following weeks brought to light that they were in fact solely interested in keeping Assad in power and fighting against the insurgency, instead of using their military power to fight ISIS. A Reuters analysis of Russian Defense Ministry data released on October 22, 2015, concluded that 80% of Russian airstrikes in Syria have been on targets unaffiliated with the Islamic State. (Reuters, October 22, 2015) Russian air strikes in Syria made it significantly more difficult for the Red Cross to deliver necessary aid and supplies to citizens, according to an organization spokerperson. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on October 30, 2015 that in the one month since Russia began it's air campaign they had killed over 400 rebel fighters and ISIS jihadis, but also more ahtn 150 civilians and approximately 50 children. Two U.S. State Department officials testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on November 4, 2015, claiming that 85-90% of Russian air strikes in Syria have been against moderate Syrian rebel forces, not the Islamic State. The two testified that Russian air support has done very little in aiding the fight against ISIS. As of November 2015 Russia has four bases established in Syria, with the main one located in Latakia. Russian air strikes killed over 600 Syrian civilians during 2015.
News organizations reported on October 13, 2015, that French air strikes in ISIS territory most likely killed a number of French citizens who had gone to the Middle East to join ISIS.
Israeli spy satelites kept track of movements of various groups within Syria during the conflict, and helped U.S. forces plan attacks and see more clearly what the Russian military was doing.
The Iraqi government announced in October 2015 that they were to be hiring an additional 10,000 troops to help fight against the Islamic State in the coming year. Baghdad officials decided to spend less money on major weapons deals in the 2016 budget, and instead hire thousands of new fighters and equip them with the latest weapons and technology.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on November 6, 2015, that 32-year-old Canadian John Gallagher, who had travelled to Syria to fight against ISIS in May 2015, had been killed by an ISIS suicide bomb. Gallagher fought with the Kurdish Peshmerga and was the second Canadian to be killed in combat with the Islamic State.
In response to the devastating terror attacks on French soil on November 13, 2015, the French army carried out it's largest air strikes on ISIS yet on November 15, 2015, dropping 20 bombs on the self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. During the following week the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle made it's way to the Eastern Mediterranean, in preparation for increased air strikes against the ISIS Jihadis. The Charles De Gaulle arrived in the Mediterranean on November 23, 2015, carrying 26 fighter jets and more than doubling French military presence in the region.
The Russian military hit Islamic State targets on November 17, 2015, with one of the largest bombing raids in modern history. Fourteen Tu-22M Backfires, six Tu-95 Bears, and five Tu-160 Blackjacks, the largest combat planes ever built, pounded Idlib and Aleppo destroying 14 strategic ISIS targets during the pre-dawn raid.
Germany announced plans to provide air support as well as send 1,200 ground troops into Iraq and Syria to join the fight against the Islamic State, in late November 2015. This would represent the largest current overseas deployment of German troops. A German refueling jet participated in bombing missions on December 15, the first time that a German plane had participated in the air campaign.
The British Royal Air Force took part in bombing campaigns in Syria for the first time during the conflict on December 3, 2015, although they had been involved in Iraq since the previous year. According to a report by Vice News published in December 2015, the Royal Air Force contingent in Syria boasted sixteen planes capable of dropping heavy payload weapons on ISIS targets, including Typhoon fighter jets and Tornado GR4 attack planes. Despite this, surveilance planes over Syria such as the MQ-9 Reaper drones, the Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint spyplanes, and Sentinel R1 surveillance jets, have been the UK's most useful contribution to the international coalition fighting ISIS. (Vice News, December 7, 2015)
On December 15, 2015, Saudi Arabian officials declared the formation of an Islamic coalition of 34 states dedicated to fighting terrorism. States involved included Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan, and others. Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, the Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia, held a rare press conference where he stated that the newly formed coalition would coordinate efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. The Crown Prince elaborated, clarifying that “there will be international coordination with major powers and international organisations in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq,” and that the coalition would target not just the Islamic State but any terror organizations and activities in the region. (The Gaurdian December 15, 2015) The news of this coalition came as a welcome surprise to the international community, including some who were allegedly “coalition members.” Officials from Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, all stated that they had not been consulted about the formation of said alliance.
France launched air strikes against the Islamic State on December 20, from their aircraft carrier the Charles De Gaulle stationed in the Mediterannean.
Although Israel was wary about joining the formal fight against the Islamic State, Israeli Major General Nitzan Alon clarified that, “from Israel's perspective, we definitely see Daesh as an enemy,” in February 2015.
Canadian officials announced on February 8, 2016, that the Canadian Air Force would no longer be taking part in coalition air strikes against ISIS as of February 22. The Canadian government shifted strategy in dealing with the Islamic State, announcing additional ground forces to train and equip Iraqi government forces for at least two years. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on February 8 that Canada would be pulling it's six fighter jets from bombing missions in the region, but will at the same time triple it's Canadian Forces members training local Iraqi troops. The Canadian CC-150 Polaris aerial refuelling aircraft and two CP-140 Aurora aerial surveillance aircraft will continue assisting the coalition.
Poland's Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz announced on February 10, 2016 that Poland would be joining in the fight against ISIS and providing reconnaissance, intelligence services, and training for ground forces. The motivation behind Poland's move to join the fight against ISIS was to convince the allied nations to shift NATO forces East, to counter Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and support for seperatist groups in the region.
At a meeting with coalition forces fighting against the Islamic State on February 11, 2016, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged to engage in more air strikes and deploy more special operations forces to the battleground. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated that the Arabs did not specify a number of special operations forces that would be deployed, or a timeline.
French military advisors helped Libyan forces coordinate against ISIS in Libya during February 2016, but did not participate in combat operations. French newspapers reported that French Special Forces were engaged in a “secret war” against ISIS in Libya, in coordination with U.S. and British forces.
Israel is engaged in “unprecedented intelligence cooperation” with Egyptian and Jordanian authorities in the fight against ISIS, according to IDF Major General Yair Golan. The General stated cautiously that the cooperation was not some sort of reconciliation agreement between the countries, “but it is a good starting point.” (Daily Mail, April 20, 2016)
The Danish Parliament approved the deployment of a new land and air force to fight the Islamic State in Syria in April 2016, adding needed muscle to the international coalition against the terror group. A Danish F-16 fighter squadron and at least one C130J transport support aircraft will enter Syria's skies during the second half of 2016, and 400 Danish ground troops will be deployed in Iraq. Previously Denmark had minimal involvement in the fight against ISIS, committing only one F-16 squadron which ended it's combat operations in fall 2015.
Turkish Special Operations forces carried out an operation on May 8, 2016, against ISIS forces in Syria who had been launching rockets into Turkey for weeks. The operation to stop the rocket fire was part of a larger effort to choke the Islamic State's main supply line at the Turkey/Syria border. At least 20 people in the border town of Kilis were killed by ISIS rocket fire coming over into Turkey between January and May 2016.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of an offensive to take back the ISIS stronghold of Fallujah on May 22, 2016. Fallujah was the first major city to fall to the Islamic State in January 2014, a full 6 months before the group declared an Islamic Caliphate in areas under their control. This operation was launched with the assistance of the Iraqi army, police, counterterrorism forces, and local tribal fighters, in tandem with U.S. air strikes. The Iraqi army entered Fallujah on May 30, 2016, supported by air strikes and heavy artillery, and by June 23 they had retaken approximately 90% of the city and it's surrounding neighborhoods. It was announced on June 27, 2016, that the Iraqi army had officially retaken all of Fallujah, after a month-long battle for control with ISIS militants.
A 275-mile long protective border control system along Jordan's borders with Iraq and Syria entered it's final phase of development in May 2016. The “Jordan Border Security Project,” as it is known, is a joint development project between the Jordanian government and U.S. based defense contractor Raytheon, with the goal of preventing Islamic State infiltration into Jordan. Once it is completed, Jordanian security forces will patrol the borders with vehicles, and maintain strategically placed watch-towers. The project also secured the border with day and night-vision security cameras, ground radars and movement-activated devices, and a local control suite.
Iraqi government forces took back the Qayara Air Base from ISIS control on July 9, 2016, with the goal of turning it into a logistical hub for U.S. advisors and other staff. Senior U.S. officials stated that the air base would serve as an “important location for our advisers, for our fire support,” as the coalition geared up to try to expel ISIS from their nearby stronghold, Mosul.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on July 19, 2016, that French forces had been conducting overnight strikes on Islamic State targets during the previous days. These strikes came as retaliation for a vehicular attack that killed 84 in the French tourist city of Nice on July 14, for which Islamic State responsibility has not yet been established.
Russian warplanes launched air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria from air fields in Iran during mid-August 2016, marking the first time during the war against ISIS that Russia had used another nation's territory, besides Syria itself, to launch strikes on the terror group. This was also the first time that Iran had allowed a foreign country to use it's facilities for military operations since the 1979 revolution. Only one week after granting the Russian military permission to launch air strikes from it's facilities, the Iranian military rescinded the approval, claiming that the Russians had been publicly loose and arrogant about the privelege.
Turkey began their most significant involvement in the fight against the Islamic State on August 23, 2016, sending planes, tanks, UAV's, artillery units, and manpower across their border with Syria. The effort was aimed at capturing the Syrian border town of Jarabulus fom the jihadis, who held positions on the Turkey/Syria border since before the establishment of their “Caliphate” in June 2014. More than 40 Turkish tanks continued to pour over the border during the final week of August 2016, in what the Turkish government dubbed “Operation Euphrates Shield.” The Turkish troops were successful in retaking Jarabulus from ISIS control after just a few days, with the help of U.S. air strikes. After two weeks of intense battles, Turkish troops aided by allied Syrian rebels cleared ISIS from the last strip of the Turkey/Syria border they controlled, effectively cutting off the group from the outside world. These victories severed ISIS supply lines used for froeign fighters, food, oil, ammunition, and weapons. On November 2, 2016, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik, announced that his country planned to complete a 911-kilometer-long wall along their border with Syria by the end of the first half of 2017. Isik clarified that this border wall would be included as part of Operation Euphrates Shield.
In order to counteract recruitment methods of the ISIS organization, France established 12 “Centers for the Prevention, Integration and Citizenship,” or deradicalization centers. These establishments are meant to give radicalized individuals aged 18-30 a “way out” of the path to violence, who will be admitted on a voluntary basis. Courses in culture, athletics, philosophy, and French history will be offered to the participants. The first center was opened in September 2016 in Beaumont-en-Véron, 180 miles south of Paris.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels participating in “Operation Euphrates Shield”captured Dabiq, Syria, from ISIS militants during the weekend of October 15, 2016. Dabiq, a large city near the Turkish border, is the site of a prophesied battle to take place at the end of the world between Muslims and non-believers. This victory was significant because Dabiq plays an important role in the world of the Islamic State; their propaganda newspaper bears the city's name.
The same weekend as the recapture of Dabiq, over 100,000 troops and advisors from Iraq, the United States, and other nations, launched an offensive to take back the Islamic State's largest stronghold, Mosul, from an estimated 5,000-7,000 ISIS fighters. In preparation for the battle ISIS members in Mosul lit large tire-fires, sending thick black smoke into the air to obscure the city from air strikes. ISIS fighters in Mosul had been preparing for the assault for months, digging tunnels underground and setting explosives and other traps for the soldiers who would come to liberate the civilians from their grasp. U.S. trained counter-terrorism units from the Iraqi military joined the fight October 18, in the second major wave of the then week-long battle to recapture Mosul and the surrounding towns. Kurdish and Iraqi forces backed by U.S. and Turkish airstrikes advanced to within 12 miles of Mosul in the first week of battle, freeing many small towns from the ISIS jihadis as they crept towards their goal. An American military service member was killed in a bomb blast during the push for Mosul; the fourth U.S. service member to be killed in Iraq during 2016.
Surprisingly abandoning their guerilla tactics, Islamic State militants launched an organized and uniformed assault on the Iraqi town of Kirkuk on October 20, 2016, while the fight for Mosul raged approximately 100 miles to the North-West.
As U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces closed in on the Islamic State strongholds of Dabiq and Mosul, liberating surrounding towns and pushing ever closer, the group retreated deep into the cities and prepared to fight. Islamic State militants rounded up thousands of local villagers at gunpoint and forced them to march towards Mosul during their retreat, acting as human shields.
The battle for Mosul kicked into high-gear on October 31, 2016, as the Iraqi and Kurdish forces back by U.S. air support breached the outskirts of Mosul's city limits. The Iraqi military discovered a mass grave containing more than 100 decapitated bodies outside of a Mosul agricultural school on November 6, 2016.
The Canadian government clarified that their troops had been involved in active combat roles against ISIS fighters on November 14, 2016. Canadian Lt.-Col. Steven Hunter stated that his troops have engaged ISIS members while on train-and-assist missions with local militias, when it is clear that the locals cannot defend themselves.
Russian security services announced on December 6, 2016, that they had killed an “emir” of the Islamic State in a raid on a home he was occupying in Russia's Makhachkala region in the North Caucasus. The terrorist, 35-year old Rustam Aselderov, had been involved in the planning and execution of a bombing in Volgograd in 2013 which killed 34, and a dual-car bombing in Dagestan in 2012 that killed 14 and injured 120. Aselderov was the first North Caucasus warlord to swear allegiance to the Islamic State, making the pronouncement in December 2014.
Two weeks after launching a ground offensive to take back the city of Aleppo from ISIS, the Syrian military and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that the military had successfully retaken approximately 75% of the city and it's surrounding neighborhoods. On December 6, 2016, Syrian government forces liberated the al-Shaar neighborhood in central Aleppo, home to four hospitals. Syrian government forces completed the takeover of Aleppo in early January 2017.
Turkish troops fighting the Islamic State in Syria sustained their bloodiest week of the conflict during late 2016. A suicide bomb killed 16 Turkish soldiers in one attack on December 23, 2016, bringing the total Turkish military fatalities during the anti-ISIS campaign to 35. U.S. officials announced on January 10, 2017, that they had begun providing increased support for the Turkish military fighting ISIS in Syria. This support included intel surveillance using drone technology, and increased coordination between military commanders.
On April 25, 2017, the Turkish military carried out multiple airstrikes against an alleged terrorist hotbed in Syria, killing 20 US-backed YPG Kurdish peshmerga rebels who have played a significant role in in the fight against ISIS. These airstrikes were not approved by the coalition according to the U.S. State Department.
German police carried out early morning raids on the homes of alleged ISIS sympathizers on May 10, 2017. Two of the individuals arrested were accused of belonging to ISIS, and one was accused of providing support to the murderous organization.
Tribes in the Sinai desert began collaborating with the Egyptian Army to fight ISIS in May 2017, after an ISIS attack killed 13 tribe members on May 10.
The United Nations
The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution aimed at stifling the finances of the Islamic State terror organization on February 12, 2015. Co-sponsored by over 35 countries, the legislation represents a global show of solidarity with the victims of the terror group. The resolution includes calls for sanctions to be placed against entities that contribute to the Islamic State's oil revenues, and urges all signatories to take steps to stop trade in cultural property and antiques coming out of Syria and Iraq. In addition, the resolution also banned the sale of all antiquities from Syria.
United Nations member states adopted a resolution in mid-May 2015 classifying the destruction of Iraqi cultural sites by these Jihadists as war crimes. The measure also encouraged international galleries and art collectors to demand documentation verifying that their purchases are in fact legitimate and had not been illegally removed from a historical site.
Almost half of a billion dollars in humanitarian aid was requested by the United Nations in June 2015 to help fight the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria brought on by the rise of the Islamic State. United Nations officials said during a conference in Brussels that unless an immediate injection of funds was supplied, the organization would have to shut down more than half of it's current efforts in Iraq and Syria. The organization requested $497 million from the international community, which would cover shelter, food, and water for 5.6 million individuals affected by the conflict for a 6 month period.
Security experts and leaders from all around the globe met in Spain on July 27, 2015, for talks sponsored by the United Nations regarding stimying the flow of foreign fighters joining foreign Jihadist organizations. The leaders took part in discussions on ways to stop radicalization efforts in their home countries, and how to prosecute and rehabilitate individuals if they return.
In the first UN Security Council testimony on LGBT issues ever, LGBT individuals who had escaped from the Islamic State spoke to the Security Council on August 24, 2015. Syrian and Iraqi LGBT individuals told the Security Council that gay individuals were being tracked constantly by the Islamic State, and when they are caught they are thrown from buildings and stoned to death in the streets.
The United Nations aborted a plan to evacuate injured and ill citizens from the besieged city of Aleppo in late October, 2016. The evacuations were abandoned due to “delays in receiving the necessary approvals from local authorities in eastern Aleppo, conditions placed by non-state armed groups and the government of Syria's objection to allowing medical and other relief supplies into the eastern part of the city,” according to UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs Stephen O'Brien. The United Nations has been unable to get aid to the Eastern parts of Aleppo since July 2016.
The Islamic State is being challenged by multiple actors: Iraqi and Iranian troops, Kurds, other radical Shiite and Sunni groups in Iraq and Syria, the Gulf States, Hezbollah and the United States with backing from some other Western states. The strategy to defeat IS includes direct military action, counterterrorism operations against foreign fighters, disruption of financing, humanitarian assistance, and media activities to “delegitimize” the extremists. Still, President Barack Obama admitted the fight against the Islamic State will take years. U.S. officials say IS is the most well-funded, well-organized, and advanced terror group the world has ever known, and they will soon have the capacity to pose a direct threat to the United States. With billions of dollars in the bank, and foreign extremists lining up to join their ranks, the Islamic State is a formidable opponent of justice, freedom, and civilized life.
Sources: BBC (July 22, 2013); Reuters (July 26, 2014); Huffington Post (August 7, 2014); The Washington Post(August 25, 2014); CNN (August 9, 2014); BBC (August 18, 2014); New York Magazine (January 2, 2014); The Washington Post (November 22, 2009); Time Magazine (June 6, 2007); The Wall Street Journal (August 24, 2014); Haaretz (September 8, 2014); The White House (September 10, 2014); The LA Times(September 14, 2014); The LA Times (September 20, 2014); CBS News(September 18, 2014); The Local (September 22, 2014); The New York Times (September 24 2014); The Wall Street Journal (September 30 2014); Fox News (October 1 2014); Yahoo News (September 30, 2014); Politico(September 24, 2014); Reuters (October 2, 2014); The New York Times(October 12, 2014); Reuters (October 16, 2014); Asharq Al-Awsat (October 22, 2014); The New York Times (October 23, 2014); The Associated Press (November 13, 2014); Reuters (November 17, 2014); The Washington Post (November 18, 2014); Reuters (November 20, 2014); The Washington Post (November 22, 2014); Reuters (November 24, 2014); Defense News (November 24, 2014); McClatchy DC (November 25, 2014); LA Times (November 26, 2014); The Washington Post (November 28, 2014); Huffington Post (December 1, 2014); Israel Hayom (December 1, 2014); New York Times (December 3, 2014); LA Times (December 3, 2014); McClatchy DC (December 9, 2014); Voice of America (December 11, 2014); Reuters (December 18, 2014); Reuters (January 6, 2015); Reuters (January 13, 2015); Al Arabiya (January 13, 2015); The New York Times (January 12, 2015) (January 18, 2015) (January 21, 2015); Yahoo News (January 13, 2015); LA Times (January 20, 2015); The Daily Star Lebanon (January 22, 2015); Ynet News (January 22, 2015); The New York Times (January 26, 2015); The Huffington Post (January 29, 2015); The New York Times (February 3, 2015); Times of Israel (February 12, 2015); Reuters (February 20, 2015); Reuters (February 24, 2015); New York Times (March 12, 2015); New York Times (April 14, 2015); Wall Street Journal (April 14, 2015); Yahoo News (April 19, 2015); Reuters (April 23, 2015); Yahoo News (May 27, 2015); Al Arabiya (June 27, 2015); Reuters (August 24, 2015); Wall Street Journal (September 7, 2015); CNN (October 22, 2015); Foreign Policy (November 16, 2015); The Daily Beast (November 18, 2015); Telegraph (November 29, 2015); The Gaurdian (December 15, 2015); Department of Defense (December 15, 2015); Vocativ (December 22, 2015); CNN (January 12, 2016); Reuters (April 9, 2016); New York Times (April 12, 2016); Daily Mail (April 20, 2016); USA Today (April 19, 2016); DefenseNews (April 21, 2016); BBC (May 10, 2016); Wall Street Journal (May 10, 2016); CNN (May 18, 2016); DefenseNews (May 30, 2016); Foreign Policy (June 8, 2016); CNN, (June 28, 2016); Reuters (June 30, 2016); Times of Israel (August 1, 2016); Reuters (August 16, 2016); Washington Post (August 24, 2016); Fox News (September 6, 2016); Military Times (September 9, 2016); Washington Post (September 13, 2016); CNN (September 13, 2016); Washington Post (September 14, 2016); CNN (October 17, 2016); Washington Post (October 18, 2016); ABC News (October 25, 2016); Hurriyet Daily News (November 2, 2016); USA Today (November 7, 2016); CBC (November 14, 2016); Long War Journal (November 18, 2016); US Africom Twitter (December 21, 2016); Wall Street Journal (December 23, 2016); Washington Post (January 9, 2017); Reuters (March 4, 2017); New York Times (March 22, 2017); New York Times (March 27, 2017); Airwars (March 17, 2017); Washington Post (April 14, 2017); Washington Post (April 13, 2017); Washington Post (April 27, 2017); Reuters, (May 10, 2017)