On August 7, President Obama announced the authorization of airstrikes against the Islamic State after new media sources like Breitbart News and Fox News drew increasing attention to the Yazidis who were trapped in deplorable and life-threatening conditions on Mount Sinjar, Iraq. IS had literally chased them up the mountain then laid siege to the religious minority, whom they described as “devil worshippers.”
The air strikes allowed tens of thousands of Yazidis to escape the mountain, but thousands more remained trapped as other IS fighters simultaneously continued their push into northern Iraq.
As a result, U.S. airstrikes continued – and continue even now – strategically targeting IS in various locations. In addition, the U.S. sent 130 troops, described as advisers or “assessors,” to join 90 such troops already in the country. Sending another 300 is currently under consideration.
What follows is a timeline of how we reached this point in Iraq, beginning with the fall of Mosul.
What were then ISIS jihadists overtook the city of Mosul on June 10. Breibart News reported that ISIS followed the victory with the declaration of a new state – the Islamic State – out of captured Iraqi and Syrian territories. They also shortened their name to the Islamic State from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The formation of the new state was then followed by the execution of clerics in Mosul whose views were too “moderate” – i.e. clerics who would not pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named chief of the Islamic State and took the title Caliph Ibrahim.
A two-week Islamic State offensive followed the fall of Mosul and resulted in the capture of the northern city of Tal Afar and an airport on June 23. The push into northern Iraq continued.
Throughout July IS conquered more land and attracted new fighters to its cause. By July 22 the U.S. was forced to increase surveillance over Baghdad in an attempt to anticipate an attack against the capital city and prevent it from falling into the hands of IS. Breitbart News reported the increased surveillance meant a jump from about one drone flight a month to 50 such flights a day over Baghdad.
At the same time, IS was also stepping into the role of statehood by solidifying its presence in Syria. Even as the U.S. was stepping up surveillance over Baghdad, the Islamic State began selling oil and gas products to Iraq from captured Syrian oil fields in an attempt to supply electricity and build state funds in the appointed “capital” of the Islamic State, Raqqa, Syria.
In early August, IS captured Shingal and took 500 girls and women as “war booty.” They openly focused on young, attractive women who would be “funniest” to be with. They drove these women out of the city in trucks but killed the older women, dumping their bodies in the streets.
Reuters reported the woman would be used as “slaves.”
On August 6 the UK Independent reported that IS militants had “trapped thousands” of Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar. The members of Iraq’s religious minority were faced with a frightening choice: stay on the mountain and starve to death – or die of thirst – or descend the mountain where IS militants waited to slaughter them.
On August 9 airstrikes began, targeting militants who were shooting at Yazidis. The Guardian reported that the strikes allowed approximately 30,000 of those who were trapped to escape and flee to Syria, whence they were “escorted back into Iraqi Kurdistan by Kurdish forces.”
The Long War Journal reported that U.S airstrikes began to focus on IS forces near the Mosul Dam on August 16 to aid “Iraqi Special Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga [in efforts] to retake the [dam] and surrounding towns lost to IS earlier [in August].” The U.S. military launched nine strikes on August 16, an undefined number on August 17, and a total of fifteen on the 18th.
US Central Command reported that the strikes “damaged or destroyed” multiple Islamic State “fighting positions” and “checkpoints,” as well as numerous “armed vehicles,” “armored personnel carriers,” and a “vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft gun,” among other things.
On August 19, IS released of video of captured American journalist James Foley being beheaded. They said his beheading was brought about by Obama’s decision to strike IS positions and pledged that they would behead others if the strikes continued.
IS forces are currently holding American journalist Steven Sotloff captive and indicate he will be next if the U.S. does not back down.
On August 20, the AP reported a total of 84 airstrikes had taken place since the U.S. began attacking IS positions the 9th. And on August 24 Breitbart News reported the rebirth of Task Force Black, an elite unit formed from British Special Forces together with U.S. Delta Force and Navy Seal Team Six personnel for the purpose of hunting down IS commanders in Iraq and Syria and eliminating the group’s leadership.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.