To understand the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), we need to go back into the era of the cold war, where the states were involved in power struggle. Back in 1970’s when Soviets invaded Afghanistan, United States saw it as a threat to their hegemony and decided to bring a force that can counter them. United States with Pakistan’s help introduce “Mujahedeen”.These Mujahedeen were facilitated by US and were motivated under the banner of Islam. Many people gathered to join this war against Soviets among those ordinary seas of people were two who turned the world upside down; Osama Bin Laden (a leader of Al-Qaeda group) and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi that formed Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi both have different approach towards Jihad, Bin Laden whose focus was on the “Far enemy” believes that the western states are responsible who affected the Muslim world. On the other hand, Zarqawi’s focus was on the “near enemy” and he believes that the Arab dictatorships and Shia school of thought are responsible for the condition of Muslims. At first, he refused to pay bayat to bin Laden; But later, he realized that in order to increase his legitimacy in Iraq he needed the support of Osama bin Laden, consequently he agreed to Bayat which provided him with the title of “Emir of Al-Qaeda’s operation in the land of Mesopotamia”.
America invaded Iraq in 2003 on the basis that Iraq has Weapons of nuclear Destructions in its possession and scholars have a general consensus that this was the step where the rise of Islamic State of Iraq started which was a threat for Zarqawi as well, so he needed the foot support to counter the US at that time. Before the US invasion Al Qaeda was not present at ground level in Iraq but United States invasion provided an opportunity to increase its influence in Iraq and beyond it. Zarqawi was most ruthless leader who deliberately used ethnic card to fuel civil war in Iraq. The ideology of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was based on takfirism, according to which one Muslim can declare another Muslim as a non-believer who is not following the tenets of Islam and it is legal to kill him. So, many groups among Shia and Sunni arose after it in Iraq and Sunni tribes started supporting Al Qaeda due to systematic discrimination by the Iraqi government. The Al-Qaeda started dismantling soon after Zarqawi’s death in 2006 by US troops.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) merged
with other Sunni Jihadist factions comprising the Mujahideen Shura Council
to form the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI). Abu
Ayyub Al Masri, Zarqawi’s successor announced the establishment of Islamic
State of Iraq with Abu Omer Al Baghdadi as its leader. Islamic State in
Iraq (ISI) began wide spread violence and they controlled Anbar region and
regulated a strict form of Shariah just as
brutal disciplines for minor encroachments and submitting extraordinary
demonstrations of cruelty against those who coordinate
s with Shia school
of thought or group. To oppose the harshness and brutality of Islamic
State in Iraq (ISI), Sunnis who had at first united with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)
left the group and started supporting US troops. But Sunni group later rejoin
ISIS due to the discrimination that was led by new Leadership of Iraq and
started operation against the government.
In the spring of 2011, revolt eclipse in Arab countries. From Tunisia it reaches to Syria, which under Bashar ul Assad was divided immensely; citizens hold their grievances against Assad regime and (AQI) took advantage of this under the leadership of Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi and he successfully launch a new branch of AL Qaeda by allying itself with Jabhat Al Nusra. He sent Syrian Jihadist Abu Mohammad al-Julani across the Iraq and Syria border and fought against Assad regime. In less than a year Joulani’s al- Nusra, as an extension of the Islamic State of Iraq, built an effective network in Syria that included thousands of local and foreign fighters who gained notoriety on the battlefield against Assad’s forces. Baghdadi formally call this expansion as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In 2013, Baghdadi announced that the ISI and Jabhat Al Nusra were merging to become the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In June 2014, the ISIS officially pronounced a caliphate, requesting that Muslims and other jihadist gatherings announce devotion to Baghdadi.
ISIS captured Raqqa a city of Syria and declared it the capital of ISIS. On June 10,2014 they took control on the Iraq’s city Mosul, Fallujah and Tikrit. On June 29, 2014, the group announced the establishment of a Caliphate, declaring Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph. ISIS took control of Syria’s largest oilfield and seizes a gas field in the Homs Province, storming the facility and killing dozens of workers. After huge destruction in the Middle East, United States decided to start operation against ISIS in 2014 and named it as “Operation Inherent Resolve”. US launched its first airstrikes against ISIS in Kobani and released those territories that were under the control of ISIS by the coalition of five Arab states Qatar, Saudi a Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan and Kurdish fighters i.e. Kobani (area of Kurdish people) Ramadi, Raqqa and Syria etc. The battle of Mosul was seen as the final battle against ISIS in Iraq and was initiated by the Iraq government forces and was supported by US. On 9th July 2017 Haider al Abadi the prime minister of Iraq declared that Mosul is fully liberated from ISIS.
Despite losing the territories in 2017, ISIS continued to attack Iraqi military and civilian. US government and foreign experts warn that the Islamic State still had as many as 10,000 loyalists in both Iraq and Syria and Trump administration decided that 400 US troops would remain there in Syria so that they could prevent Resurgence of Syria. Syrian Democratic forces (SDF)reclaimed that ISIS is present near Iraqi border and has ability to strike back and could attack around the world. In Syria, ISIS launched an offensive to retake territory in Syria and killed 40 Syrian forces fighters, and resultantly they started operation against them in eastern Syria. Baghouz was the last city that was under ISIS but SDF captured it and defeated ISIS. After defeating from Syria ISIS attacked on Easter Day in Srilanka, Negombo and Batticaloa churches and they took responsibility of this attack and its leader Abubakar Al Baghdadi made an announcement on social media “that revenge has been taken in the result of defeating in Baghouz Syria. So, ISIS presence cannot be denied fully it remain a significant threat for the world in future.
Mujahedeen that were used to contain Soviet Union influence in Afghanistan but it split into different groups and make their own ideologies by using the religion, at that time government did not focus on their rehabilitation due to which world has to face this new form of terrorism. And, if we analyze Leadership of both states Afghanistan and Iraq were unstable and did not make effective policies against them due to which these terrorist organizations seek it as an opportunity to increase its influence in the territory. ISIS has expanded its ideology globally and divided Muslim through takfirism but it did not hold huge successes and started losing its strength due to the action of International Communities against them. Though ISIS has lost its influence in various territories they have continued to spread its ideology online and encouraged supporters to carry out attacks worldwide. Sectarianism is a factor due to which ISIS expanded its influence worldwide. So, efforts must be made at International level to protect the rights of minorities and marginalized segments of society because in the absence of such protection, terrorist groups like the IS can exploit social grievances as it did in Iraq and Syria, as well as leadership, must play its role actively so that they could take action immediately before it becomes difficult to handle as we had seen the situation of both states.