The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has taken over vast swaths of Iraq and Syria in what seemed a rapid fashion, but a new video from the Brookings Institution explains the terror group’s origins that trace back to well before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Though once aligned with Al Qaeda, ISIS — or the self-proclaimed Islamic State — has shed those roots in a very public spat with its predecessor. But long before it was a dangerous group of anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000 militants, ISIS was just a ragtag group of insurgents led by an ex-criminal.
As President George W. Bush prepared for the invasion of Iraq in 2002, a petty criminal and gangster originally from Jordan saw his chance. “Abu Musab Zarqawi moved from Afghanistan where he had been working with Osama bin Laden to Iraq,” the video’s narrator says. “His purpose: To set a trap.”
Though Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006, his group later took shape under its new management. It has changed its name a few times, but the U.S. has really been fighting ISIS for 12 years.
Watch the video: