MS Risk Blog

IS Offensive: A Year Review

Posted on in Iraq, ISIS, Syria title_rule

Exactly a year ago, the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group launched its sweeping offensive that resulted in the jihadist group overrunning large areas of territory in Syria and in Iraq and which has led to the death of thousands and displaced millions of people.

With 12 months of bloody conflict, it is likely that the situation will continue before the IS gains can be reversed. Speaking at the end of the G-7 summit in Germany on 8 June, United States President Barack Obama disclosed that when it comes to IS, “we don’t yet have a complete strategy” adding that the reason why there isn’t a complete strategy so far is that “it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. The details of that are not yet worked out.” He did note that the Pentagon is currently busy drawing up plans in consultation with the Iraqis, and that once a plan can be signed off on, the details will be made public. This comment is similar to one he made back in August, when he stated, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/IS). Since his comments, the US and a coalition of allies have launched more than 4,000 airstrikes in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, however they have been unable to prevent key cities from falling to the jihadists. Furthermore, six months after the US began training Iraqi troops to fight IS militants, Iraq’s forces are often unable to match the jihadists. The US has trained around 7,000 Iraqi soldiers in a series of six-week training camps however none of those 7,000 were deployed in unsuccessful effort to defend Ramadi. President Obama has indicated that the US is “going to have to improve” training for Iraqi forces, leaving open the possibility of deploying additional American military trainers. Currently there are around 3,000 American troops deployed in Iraq.

Some Key events in the Conflict:



9: IS-led offensive begins in Iraq’s second largest city Mosul.

10: Mosul falls while the surrounding province of Nineveh follows as multiple Iraqi security forces divisions collapse. Then-premier Nuri al-Maliki, announces that the Iraqi government will arm citizens who volunteer to fight.

11: Tikrit, a major city located north of the capital Baghdad falls to IS.

13: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, calls on Iraqis to take up arms against the militant group.

IS claims to have executed 1,700 mainly Shiite recruits, releasing photos of the killings.

29: IS declares a cross-border Islamic “caliphate” in Iraq and neighboring Syria, which is headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.


2: IS launches a renewed northern offensive, which drives Iraqi Kurdish forces back and which targets minority groups with mass killings, rape and enslavement.

Thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority are besieged on Mount Sinjar. This draws international concern and prompts calls for intervention.

8: The United States begins air strikes in Iraq. An international coalition follows suit.

17: Maliki steps aside and is replaced by Haider al-Abadi

19: IS says it has beheaded US journalist James Foley, releasing a graphic video of the killing which results in international condemnation.

Similar shocking beheadings take the lives of journalists Steven Sotloff, Kenji Goto; aid workers David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassing, and Goto’s friend Haruna Yukawa.

22: Shiite militiamen gun down seventy people in what is an apparent revenge attack at a Sunni mosque in Diyala province.


23: The Anti-IS air campaign expands to neighbouring Syria.


25: Abadi declares first significant government victory in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, which is located near Baghdad.

29: IS executes dozens of Albu Nimr tribesmen. More mass killings follow.


14: Iraq forces recapture the strategic town of Baiji however it is later lost again to IS militants.



25: Witnesses and Sunni leaders accuse Shiite militiamen of executing over seventy residents in Diyala province.

26: Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaida announces that Diyala has been “liberated” from IS.


3: IS video shows Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh being burned alive in a cage after he was captured in Syria in December.

26: IS releases video of militants destroying ancient artefacts in a museum in Mosul.


2: Iraq launches massive operation to retake Tikrit from IS>

5: Iraq indicates that IS has begun “bulldozing” the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. IS later releases a video of militants smashing artefacts before blowing up the site.

31: Abadi announces that Tikrit has been retaken. However the victory is marred by pro-government forces who burned and looted dozens of houses and shops.


5: IS releases video of militants destroying artefacts at the ancient city of Hatra, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.


17: IS seizes Anbar capital Ramadi, which along with the capture of Palmyra in a Syria a few days later, signal its most significant

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