The Islamic State (Terrorist Organization)

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ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), is a Sunni jihadist group with a particularly violent ideology that calls itself a caliphate and claims religious authority over all Muslims. It was inspired by al Qaida but later publicly expelled from it. RAND terrorism experts have analyzed the group's financing, management, and organization; its savvy use of social media for recruitment and fundraising; and the instability that spawned the group as a regional problem in the Middle East.

  • Iraqi soldiers fire a rocket toward Islamic State militants on the outskirts of the Makhmour south of Mosul, Iraq, March 25, 2016, photo by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

    Content

    How to Roll Back ISIL and Other Terrorist Threats

    Sep 30, 2016

    ISIL is the most active group among Salafi-jihadists, waging a wide campaign. Defeating the group will require moving it from a quasi-state to an insurgency to a suppressed movement that controls little or no territory or population.

  • U.S. soldiers execute a fire mission to support Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive in northern Iraq, December 24, 2016, photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/U.S. Army

    Report

    Countering ISIL as a Transregional Threat

    Jan 31, 2017

    The U.S. counter-ISIL strategy must recognize the long-term nature of the global violent jihadi threat. U.S. diplomatic and military actions should focus on reducing the appeal of ISIL and disrupting the transregional network that supports it.

Explore The Islamic State (Terrorist Organization)

  • A French soldier from Operation Barkhane rides in an armoured vehicle in Timbuktu, November 5, 2014

    Commentary

    The French Way of War

    There is a French way of warfare that reflects the French military's lack of resources and its modest sense of what it can achieve. They specialize in carefully apportioned and usually small but lethal operations, often behind the scenes.

    Nov 17, 2015

  • French police stand guard outside a commercial center in Nice, November 14, 2015, the day after a series of deadly attacks in Paris

    Commentary

    Why the Paris Terrorists Couldn't Be Stopped

    Terrorists almost always have the advantage. Theoretically, they can attack anything, anywhere, anytime. And governments cannot protect everything, everywhere, all the time.

    Nov 16, 2015

  • The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen as flags fly at half staff at the Washington Monument, November 16, 2015

    Commentary

    Time to Prepare for the Unthinkable

    Given ISIS's strategy, it seems only a matter of time before these extremists might attempt an attack in the United States. The irony is that the very rights that Americans hold so dear — liberty, privacy, freedom — place it at greater risk. So what should America do to prepare?

    Nov 16, 2015

  • Candles in the French national colours are placed near the Bataclan concert hall the morning after a series of deadly attacks in Paris, November 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Big Questions Facing France

    In Paris, the heavily armed terrorists reportedly struck at six locations, including restaurants, a football stadium, and a theater during a rock concert. It seems clear the killers must have had some confederates. That would mean some terrorists are still at large.

    Nov 14, 2015

  • Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (right) listens to rescue workers as he looks at the remains of a Russian airliner after it crashed in central Sinai, north Egypt, October 31, 2015

    Commentary

    Passing Judgment on Russian Plane Crash Before the Facts Are In

    A bright flash and catastrophic event suggest an explosion, but do not necessarily exclude the possibility of a mechanical failure. This would not, in fact, be the first time evidence pointed to a terrorist attack when none existed.

    Nov 12, 2015

  • The remains of a Russian airliner that crashed are found near Al-Arish, Egypt, October 31, 2015

    Commentary

    Could the Russian Jet Crash in Egypt Prompt a Change of Direction for Putin and Russia?

    If ISIS was responsible for the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian passenger jet, this may alter the strategic equation for Moscow.

    Nov 9, 2015

  • A schoolgirl walks past damaged buildings in Maarrat al-Numan, Syria, October 28, 2015

    Commentary

    Partition Syria to Crush the Islamic State

    The Islamic State will never join in any settlement. Peace in Syria therefore requires that everyone else stop fighting each other and join in suppressing the Islamic State.

    Nov 1, 2015

  • Men search for survivors at a site hit by shelling in Damascus, Syria, June 16, 2015

    Commentary

    A No-Fly Zone Over Syria: Q&A with Karl Mueller

    Some are advocating a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians from both ISIS and forces loyal to Assad. What constraints complicate establishing a no-fly zone and realizing its expected benefits? And how might Assad supporters, such as Russia, respond?

    Oct 15, 2015

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, September 30, 2015

    Commentary

    What Is Putin Really Up to in Syria?

    Russia wants to be sure that it's not ignored if and when the West succeeds in implementing a broader, more effective solution to the Syria-Iraq-ISIL problem. This is a task far beyond Russia's capabilities, but one that America, the West, and regional powers may be able to accomplish.

    Oct 2, 2015

  • News Release

    Coalition Against the Islamic State Must Degrade the Group's Finances and Leadership

    Even before 2012, much was known about how the Islamic State financed and organized itself, established territorial control, and responded to airpower. That knowledge offers new insights into the group's weaknesses and guidance for combating it.

    Sep 28, 2015

  • Fighters of al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant carry their weapons during a parade at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad January 2, 2014

    Report

    Coalition Against the Islamic State Must Degrade the Group's Finances and Leadership

    Even before 2012, much was known about how the Islamic State financed and organized itself, established territorial control, and responded to airpower. That knowledge offers new insights into the group's weaknesses and guidance for combating it.

    Sep 28, 2015

  • Members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces detain a man suspected of having links to the Islamic State, on the outskirts of Kirkuk March 15, 2015

    Commentary

    Any Review of Syria and Iraq Strategy Needs Realistic Reappraisal

    Since the American-led coalition bombing campaign began a year ago, ISIS has suffered some military setbacks and lost territory, but it also has been able to capture several more key cities in Iraq and Syria, and, despite the bombing, continues to attract a large number of foreign fighters.

    Sep 28, 2015

  • News Release

    U.S. Faces Gap Between Objectives and Reality in Syria and Iraq

    There is a substantial gap between American national objectives and a realistic appreciation of the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq. These objectives need to be based on frank appraisals of the situation, even if those assessments defy Americans' sense of progress.

    Sep 24, 2015

  • Iraqi volunteers fix weapons for the Hashid Shaabi militia at a shop on the outskirts of Basra, June 16, 2015

    Report

    The United States Faces a Gap Between Objectives and Reality in Syria and Iraq

    There is a large gap between U.S. objectives and a realistic appreciation of the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Frank appraisals of the situation in the region must inform U.S. objectives, even if such assessments defy Americans' sense of progress.

    Sep 24, 2015

  • Iraqi soldiers fire at paper targets during the opening of the Anbar Operation Center's shooting range in Ramadi, Iraq, September 10, 2011

    Commentary

    Vietnam Teaches Us That Iraq Needs More Than U.S. Combat Advisers

    There are issues that must be examined, understood, and planned for if the United States does not wish to have U.S. advisers left to the cruelties of the Islamic State.

    Sep 14, 2015

  • A chlorine-tinged cloud of smoke rises from a bomb detonated by Iraqi army and Shi'ite fighters in the town of al-Alam in Salahuddin province, March 10, 2015

    Commentary

    ISIS Plus Chemical Weapons Does Not Equal Apocalypse

    The renewed use of chemical weapons on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria is a dangerous regional phenomenon, not an imminent global threat.

    Sep 11, 2015

  • Testimony

    An Assessment of the Counter-ISIL Campaign: One Year after Mosul: Addendum

    Document submitted August 24, 2015 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on June 24, 2015.

    Aug 27, 2015

  • Afghan officials in Pakistan August 13, 2015 discussing reviving suspended peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, days after Taliban attacks killed dozens of people in Kabul

    Commentary

    Afghanistan, Choose Your Enemies Wisely

    The Taliban's new leadership may be the last decent opportunity for a political solution to the conflict. Without a solution, the Islamic State could make Afghanistan the next Iraq or Syria.

    Aug 24, 2015

  • A U.S. Army sergeant assists Iraqi army soldiers as they practice Military Operations in Urban Terrain procedures at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

    Commentary

    Training Foreign Military Forces: Quality vs Quantity

    The American model for large-scale development of partner nation armies is failing. The push for numbers and the attendant dilution of training is at odds with building a cohesive army with the will to stand and fight, predicated upon an unproven assumption that a “large footprint” is itself a decisive strategy.

    Jul 15, 2015

  • U.S. soldiers rush a building during a platoon live-fire demonstration for Iraqi army trainees and officers on Camp Taji, Iraq, Feb. 5, 2015

    Commentary

    An Authorization for the Fight Against the Islamic State

    The U.S. military is conducting some 2,000 airstrikes a month against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria but progress is slow and the terrorist group has expanded far beyond those two countries. Congress needs now more than ever to take up the issue of authorizing the use of military force.

    Jul 9, 2015