By Russ Read
ISIS has dominated the headlines across the globe in 2015. Be it the attacks in Paris in November or the various high-quality execution videos peppered across the Internet, the group has captivated the attention of policymakers and the general public alike.
Likewise, concern for President Barack Obama’s handling of ISIS has been at the forefront of the public mind. His strategy has been at times unclear and on many occasions criticized by both his own former cabinet advisers and his own political allies. Below are some pictures that sum up the Obama administration’s ISIS policy in 2015.
January: ISIS takes over CENTCOM’s Twitter account
In January, hackers supposedly loyal to ISIS took over the U.S. military’s Central Command Twitter account posting several threatening messages and various videos. One tweet reads: “AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK.”
February: ISIS captures and executes a Jordanian pilot in spectacular, gruesome fashion
In February, Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh was captured by ISIS and burned alive in a cage. The video was uploaded by ISIS onto the internet for the world to see. Al-Kasaesbeh was engaged in a bombing operation as part of the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve at the time he was captured.
March: One of Africa’s most renowned terrorist group swears fealty to ISIS
In March, the Nigerian radical terrorist group Boko Haram swore fealty to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Boko Haram’s addition to the ISIS ranks gives ISIS an international reach that stretches from Africa to Iraq. According to some reports, Boko Haram has actually killed more people this year than ISIS has in Syria and Iraq.
April: ISIS makes its presence known in Afghanistan
An ISIS affiliate made its presence known in Afghanistan in April when it detonated a suicide bomb in Jalalabad in Eastern Afghanistan, killing 34 and injuring 125.
May: ISIS takes capital city of key Iraqi province
In May, ISIS secured one its greatest victories to date by capturing Ramadi, the largest city in western Iraq and capital of al-Anbar province. Ramadi sits about 68 miles from Baghdad and is currently in contention between ISIS and Iraqi forces.
June: ISIS rampages through popular vacation spot in Northern Africa
ISIS affiliated terrorists attacked a popular resort in Sousse, Tunisia, killing 39 in June. The resort was apparently targeted because of its popularity with European tourists. Most of the dead were British tourists, according to the Tunisian Prime Minister.
July: ISIS “cubs,” child soldiers, line up and execute Iraqi Army soldiers
In July, ISIS released a video of child soldiers executing 25 hostages in the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria. The ruins of the ancient city date back to thousands of years to the Roman empire. ISIS would later demolish the entire city in September.
August: Meanwhile, Iran and Moscow show signs of coordination
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Qods Force, flew to Moscow in August to meet Russian leaders in order to discuss operations in Syria and Iraq, defying sanctions against him. The Qods Force is Iran’s covert operations group that operates on behalf of the Islamic Republic abroad. The U.S. designates Soleimani as a terrorist. The mysterious leader has become a cult figure with Shia Muslim militias in Iraq and Syria and supposedly has apowerful influence with the Iraqi government.
September: Russia takes the reins from Washington
In late September, Russian forces carried out their first attacks in Syria. Russia is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Though Russian officials claim to be attacking ISIS forces, it appears that they have also been targeting Syrian rebel groups fighting Assad.
October: A Russian comercial flight explodes midair and signs point to ISIS
ISIS claims responsibility for downing a Russian airliner flying over the Sinai desert in Egypt in late October, killing 224 people. The attack was an apparent retaliation for Russian operations against ISIS in Syria.
November: Attacks in Paris rock the world. ISIS is clearly metastasizing
In November, ISIS-backed militants conducted a series of suicide bombings and shootings in Paris. The coordinated attacks took place across the city, including Le Bataclan theater and Stade de France, and left 130 dead.
December: Pentagon’s top chiefs testify in front of Congress, and it doesn’t sound good
In early December, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter testified to Congress regarding the U.S. strategy against ISIS, with Dunford admitting ISIS is “not contained.” The remarks came in stark contradiction to President Obama’s claim that ISIS was indeed contained. Shortly after the President’s remarks, ISIS operatives would kill 130 in Paris. Additionally, Carter’s offer of support to Iraq in the form of attack helicopters and military advisers would be rejected by the Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi in mid-December.
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