The Islamic State keeps morphing, and the United States and its allies are struggling to keep up.
- By Dan De LuceDan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent. He joined FP in June 2015 after working as Pentagon correspondent for Agence France-Presse. Prior to that, Dan reported for the Guardian from Iran until he was expelled by the regime in 2004. After the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe, Dan worked as a freelance journalist in Prague. He later covered the war in former Yugoslavia for Reuters from 1993 to 1995 before serving as Sarajevo bureau chief after the conflict. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dan lives in Washington with his wife, journalist and author Caitriona Palmer, and his four children., C.K. HickeyC.K. Hickey is Foreign Policy’s resident interactives and features designer, but you can call him CSS Wizard for short. A film studies major from Los Angeles, C.K. flirted with television as an FX Networks production intern until technology and journalism wooed him away. Prior to FP, he honed his writing and coding skills at Salon, Current TV, KQED, and the Virginian-Pilot. C.K.’s interactive documentary, The Town: Reckoning at Mammoth Lakes, won a Digital Storymakers Award from the Atavist in 2013, and he won four Virginia Press Association awards for features he produced at the Pilot. C.K. has worked at FP since 2015. When not developing projects like Global Thinkers, he’s probably cooking, playing his piano, hiking, or watching old movies.
From bombings in Jakarta and Istanbul to attacks on oil facilities in Libya, the Islamic State is rapidly expanding its operations far beyond its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. Washington — initially reluctant for political reasons to acknowledge the group’s growing reach — is scrambling to keep up.
President Barack Obama, who took office promising to reduce America’s military involvement in the Middle East, is weighing sending more U.S. troops to Iraq to bolster the fight against the Islamic State and is poised to open a new front against the militant group in Libya.
The shifts come amid signs that the Islamic State is on the move in North Africa and is working to spread its terrorist network across the continent and into Asia. Outside Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has declared “provinces,” or wilayat, for its self-declared “caliphate” in nine other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Russia.
And that list could grow: U.S. officials and analysts fear the group will soon plant its flag in new locations, including Tunisia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Somalia.
Drawing from data provided by the Institute for the Study of War and IHS Jane’s, here is an interactive map showing where the Islamic State has declared its provinces — and where the group could yet extend its reach.