The Islamic State Remains An Undefeated Threat

The Islamic State Remains An Undefeated Threat

Brian Glyn Williams


There are still as many as 30,000 Islamic State fighters in the Middle East.

In a series of bloody campaigns from 2014 to 2019, a multinational military coalition drove the Islamic State group, often known as ISIS, out of much of the Iraqi and Syrian territory that the strict militant theocracy had brutally governed.

But the Pentagon and the United Nations both estimate that the group still has as many as 30,000 active insurgents in the region. Thousands more IS-aligned fighters are spread across Africa and Asia, from the scrublands of Mali and Niger to the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan, to the island jungles of the Philippines.

I keep track of the loose alliance of various global affiliates and insurgent groups collectively known as the Islamic State. It’s part of my research chronicling America’s wars in remote lands where I have worked for the CIA and the U.S. Army. I also monitor Islamic State activities around the world for a University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth project I lead called

In recent months, the Islamic State group has reconstituted itself in the Syria-Iraq region and continues to inspire mayhem across the globe.

Iraq, the homeland of jihadocracy

The “Dawla Islamia,” or Islamic State, began as a Sunni Muslim insurgent group in Iraq amid the maelstrom of sectarian violence that followed the U.S.-led 2003 invasion. Up until then, Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baathist party had suppressed Islamist jihadi groups of all stripes, limiting influence in Iraq from Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni-fundamentalist Saudi Arabia.

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