In the past three years, the militant group Islamic State (IS) has emerged as the greatest global threat since the rise of Al-Qaeda. Despite its strength increasing gradually since 2013, the question that remains is, how much of a threat are they today?

History and Ideology

As we broach this subject, let us examine in greater detail the Islamic State. IS originally came into existence when pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda against the Western invasion into Iraq in 2003. However, the group really came into prominence in 2014 as one of the main jihadist groups "fighting government forces in Syria and Iraq" as the BBC stated.

Ideologically, IS is a "theocracy, proto-state", as stated on It adheres to an extremist interpretation of Islam and inherently believes in the restoration of the Caliphate (an area containing a person considered a religious successor to the prophet Muhammad).

The rise of Islamic State

It is clear that IS has grown significantly in the past three years and has achieved considerable successes. The group vowed to make "the West and the East...submit" as reported on In 2015 the group controlled around 300,000 square kilometers. In addition, with its religious rhetoric and call for arms to Muslims around the world, further success was illustratedthrough its rising ranks.

A former fighter for IS claimed on more than 4,000 covert gunmen had been smuggled into western nations. In addition, in February 2015 James Clapper, the United States Director for National Intelligence said that IS could find "somewhere in the range between 20,000 and 32,000 fighters" in Iraq and Syria.

Success has also been achieved through the threats taken against the West and the attacks on those captured. The BBC stated that the group had gained a reputation for "brutal rule" in the areas that it controls. As a result of the beheadings and continual claims of attacks, fear has been spread throughout the civilised world.

And its decline

However, although there is still a fear factor, IShave suffered setbacks, in particular the loss of key territories; the Iraqi city of Tikrit and the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad for example. In addition, the town in which its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate, Mosul, is currently under serious threat of being taken by Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Furthermore, the brutal tactics applied to its enemies has caused further problems. Idealised as an Islamic world, the impact of their actions have caused many living in IS controlled territories to leave. The Times of Israel stated that "mass displacement" has occurred as a result. Fearful of its reputation for "murder, torture...and even slavery", many have fled.

Despite also possessing an arsenal of willing fighters, there has also been a exodus of those who feel that the reality was far removed from what they originally signed up for. The Express newspaper reported that in June 2016 more than "150 foreign-born militants" had left in the hope of "returning to Europe"; a clear sign that frustration is spreading. In addition, as a result of the US-led coalition, the Glasgow Global Security Network stated that IS has lost around 40 percent of its Iraqi territory.


The question that remains is, however, how much of a threat are Islamic State today? It is clear that they still control large swaths of territory. They still have a large contingent of fighters willing to give their lives for their cause.

And there is still fear amongst the rest of the world at what the Islamic State is claiming will happen. But today I believe that they are not what they are. The truth of life under IS, their abilities to hurt the West and the overall surprise package of a militant group without boundaries is no longer feared as much. They must still be taken seriously by intelligence agencies around the world, but bit by bit, the battle against the Islamic State is being won.