ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is an organization that has become more and more well-known lately. However, many ordinary American citizens know very little about how this group came to be.
According to magazine The Atlantic, the earliest incarnation of ISIS was al-Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, a militant organization that became affiliated with terror group al-Qaeda in 2004 and fought as insurgents in the Iraq War. The group was supported by many of Iraq’s minority Sunni population, who were resentful of the majority Shiites’ domination in government. AQI suffered when leader Abu Masab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June of 2006, and again in 2007 when an increased number of US troops were deployed to Iraq.
After the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011, AQI was being led by Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi and was renamed as ISI, the Islamic State in Iraq. Many of the fighters joining their ranks were former soldiers, giving the group a more professional air. They also acquired large amounts of military weapons and hardware, including equipment originally supplied by the U.S. to the Iraqi military. The group soon began fighting against government forces in Syria, where an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad was already taking place, and the organization was renamed to ISIS. The group now controls large parts of both Syria and Iraq.
The stated objective of ISIS is to establish a caliphate, or an Islamic theocratic government, in the Middle East, with al-Baghdadi as its supreme leader. Shari’a, or Islamic law, is implemented in areas under the group’s control. Social media has been effectively used by ISIS to spread propaganda and recruit new fighters, especially those from foreign countries. CNN reported that more than 100 Americans have travelled to the Middle East to fight for ISIS.