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The Islamic State We Knew: Insights Before the Resurgence and Their Implications

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The group calling itself the Islamic State poses a grave threat, not just to Iraq and Syria but to the region more broadly and to the United States, as well as its global coalition partners. A deadly and adaptive foe, the Islamic State seemed to come out of nowhere in June 2014, when it conquered Mosul, Iraq s second-largest city. However, the Islamic State of today is the direct descendant of a group that Iraq, the United States, and their partners once fought as al-Qa ida in Iraq and then as the Islamic State of Iraq. Drawing from articles and documents that were publicly available before 2012, this report shows that quite a bit was known about the Islamic State by the end of 2011 how it financed and organized itself, how it operated, how it captured territory, and what its relationship with airpower looked like. One big thing remained unknown, however what it would do next. And one thing was almost beyond imagination Not only would there be there no letup in the group s brutality once it controlled territory, there would even be an increase. The predecessor organizations of the Islamic State had been routed before because the Sunni population of Iraq had turned against them, in part because of their ruthlessness. But they never stopped that brutality. As the Islamic State moved into Syria in late 2011 and expanded in Iraq in 2014, instead of limiting its savagery, it doubled down. The wealth of publicly available information about the group indicates that the Islamic State s reemergence in 2014, and especially its methods and goals, should not have come as a surprise, although the strength and scope of that reemergence were rightfully shocking. Now that the Islamic State has reemerged, however, taking a second look at some of what was known could yield new insights into its weaknesses, guidance for combating it, and a warning of how difficult that will be.

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  • Unconventional Warfare

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