The Islamic State is a unique jihadist entity. Unlike all prior jihadist movements, IS has achieved the status of a state actor – it controls, governs and defends territory. Unlike the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan for five years prior to the 9/11 attacks, IS established a transnational caliphate by disregarding the borders between Syria and Iraq. Taking advantage of the failing Iraqi and Syrian states, IS seized large tracts of territory on both sides of the border and set up a viable economy.
IS has not been able to expand the frontiers of its caliphate and has experienced some territorial losses since late 2015. However, IS remains entrenched in eastern Syria and western Iraq. More recently, it has also demonstrated the capability to stage transcontinental terrorist attacks, particularly in Europe.
The United States has pulled together a major international military effort to dismantle the two-year-old IS caliphate. This report seeks to understand the outcome o