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Conflict Terrorism

Is the Islamic State Winning or Losing?

Jihadist waving the flag of the Islamic State. Image: Alatele fr/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 1 September, 2015.

A little over a year ago, thousands of Yazidi refugees huddled at the top of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. They faced extermination at the hands of the Islamic State, or ISIL, and their plight was grave enough to trigger the United States to launch a humanitarian rescue mission to deliver food and protect the refugees. The United States military started dropping food to the refugees on August 7 and on August 8 started dropping bombs on Islamic State fighters.

August 2014 was a watershed month in the battle against ISIL. It represented the moment that ISIL burst into American national consciousness. It was also the month that ISIL first beheaded American captives, and the month that the group reached its greatest territorial expansion as its forces invaded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan and appeared to threaten Baghdad.