After a U.S. counterterrorism campaign and Sunni efforts to maintain local security in what was known as the Tribal Awakening, AQI violence diminished from its peak in 2006–2007. But since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in late 2011, the group has increased attacks on mainly Shiite targets in what is seen as an attempt to reignite conflict between Iraq’s Sunni minority and the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Burgeoning violence in 2013 left nearly eight thousand civilians dead, making it Iraq’s bloodiest year since 2008, according to the United Nations. Meanwhile, in 2012 the group adopted its new moniker, ISIS (sometimes translated as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) as an expression of its broadened ambitions as its fighters have crossed into neighboring Syria to challenge both the Assad regime and secular and Islamist opposition groups there. By June 2014, the group’s fighters had routed the Iraqi military in the major cities of Fallujah and Mosul and established territorial control and administrative structures on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border… MORE
The Iraqi insurgent group has capitalized on the Sunni minority’s alienation from the state to expand its reach. As the United States begins airstrikes, this Backgrounder examines the rise of ISIS.
Background & Analysis
Evaluating U.S. Options in Iraq
Stephen D. Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
July 29, 2014
In his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Stephen Biddle assesses the U.S. government’s options for responding to the advances made by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq.