Timeline of Islamic State & al-Qaeda

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  • Afghanistan was the beginning of what the America's Bush administration called a “global war on terror". It began with the offensive against al-Qaeda. 
  • The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime because they refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the man behind the 9/11 attacks. But 20 years later, the U.S. was forced to exit a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. al-Qaeda networks is presently spread across many countries.

Timeline of Islamic State & al-Qaeda

  • The U.S was able to defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. But, within a few years, al-Qaeda resurged in post-Saddam Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordan-born al-Qaeda leader, established al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). 
  • It was the AQI that morphed into present day Islamic State, exploiting the chaos in Syrian civil war. 
  • Baghdadi became leader of IS in 2010. He rebuilt ISI's capabilities after the death of Zarqawi. IS became a major part of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This gave rise to the al-Nusra Front. 
  • Baghdadi announced the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), involving his group in Iraq and al-Nusra in Syria.
  • al-Qaeda was initially confined to Afghanistan before September 11. But now they have decentralized themselves and dispatched to different parts of the world. 
  • The IS also followed the same tactics when its ‘Caliphate’ was under attack in Iraq and Syria. IS setup new provinces in other war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Libya. 
  • Boko Haram is a jihadist group based in Nigeria. It declared loyalty to the IS, allowing the group to expand its operations in Africa.
  • Presently, Al-Qaeda has multiple operational branches like the al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. 
  • In Africa, both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS Greater Sahara and IS West Africa Province) have set up units.
  • Instead of one centralised outfit with a base, the world now has many al-Qaedas.


  • It is an extremist militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden in the end of 80s.
  • Initially they were a logistical network that supported Muslims fighting against the Soviet Union during the Afghan War
  • After Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the organization was dispersed. 
  • They later reestablished its headquarters in Afghanistan under the patronage of the Taliban militia.
  • Al-Qaeda created camps for Muslim militants from throughout the world. They provided training in military skills. Their agents carried out many terrorist attacks. This included the destruction of the U.S. embassies in countries like Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (1998). Even a suicide bomb attack was carried out against the U.S. warship Cole in Aden, Yemen. 
  • In 2001, 19 militants related to al-Qaeda initiated the 9/11 attacks against the United States. 
  • The U.S. government responded by attacking Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. Thousands of militants were killed or captured and the remainder and their leaders were driven into hiding.

Islamic State

  • The Islamic State, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is an Islamic militant group that advocates a fundamentalist, Salafi jihadist doctrine of Sunni Islam. 
  • The group aims to establish a Caliphate which is a territory governed according to Islamic law. 
  • al-Qaeda's operations are limited to carrying out suicide attacks in the West or West-backed countries. 
  • But IS intends to establish a “pure” Islamic State where the “true” believers can come and live. 
  • In IS controlled regions, the minority communities had to pay minority tax to the state for protection. 
  • Minorities are not allowed to publicly practice their religion. 
  • According to their belief system homosexuals were to be thrown off high-rises. Barbaric punishments like chopping the fingers of smokers exists. 
  • Slavery is legal, but music and films forbidden. 
  • The concept of “nation-states” is also alien to the IS world-view. 
  • Syncretic traditions of Islam such as Sufism are anti-Islam according to the IS. 
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