The anniversary of the caliphate declared in Mosul on Jun 28, 2014, by the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, offers a useful point for looking at the aims of the militant group.
A leaked manual reveals that ISIL is setting up a government with the hallmarks of a nation-state, while the daily news of its conquests and alliances suggests limitless territorial ambitions. At the same time, the extremists are widening their tactics in response to reported battleground losses.
According to USA Today, new estimates by a U.S.-led coalition combating the extremist group indicate that ISIL has lost 45 per cent of the territory it once held in Iraq and 20 per cent of areas it controlled in Syria. The extremists are striking back against civilians. May has been marked by several deadly bombings in Baghdad.
The 24-page ISIL document, leaked to Britain's Guardian newspaper in December, amounts to a blueprint for systems covering health, education, commerce and foreign and public relations.
ISIL boasts of establishing its caliphate outside Iraq and Syria. In Libya, ISIL appears to be flourishing amid the chaos and rivalries left in the aftermath of the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi. Boko Haram in Nigeria has pledged allegiance to ISIL, according to Al Jazeera, which also reports that Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Egypt has sworn its allegiance to the jihadist movement.
The anniversary reports might also venture into the question of whether ISIL is unstoppable. It has proven resilient. Western allies are raining bombs on ISIL strongholds in Syria, and Iraq has seen some recent military gains, but reports suggest that the increased pressure only serves to stimulate recruitment. Time Magazine in the United States observed on the first anniversary that the movement has a seemingly endless supply of volunteer suicide bombers.
Date written/update: 2016-01-08