Behind Islamic State’s advance: ‘sophisticated, patient and focused’ plans

SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- From 2009 until the end of 2011, a war-weary United States was withdrawing its forces from Iraq, moving on from an unpopular war and leaving the protection of the fragile country to Iraq’s U.S.-trained security forces.

For Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a former Muslim preacher and leader of the group now known as Islamic State, those were years spent laying the foundations that produced this summer’s battlefield offensives that stunned much of the world and cast doubt on the future of Iraq and the U.S. legacy after eight years of war.

The Islamic State’s mix of mobility, ruthlessness and battlefield surprise against unprepared foes enabled it to overrun about a third of the country and hold on to heavily populated areas including Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

Yet, with the element of surprise largely spent, the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, now finds itself in a defensive struggle that plays more to its weaknesses than strengths, according to an analysis published in August by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, an academic research institution at the U.S. Military Academy.

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