In an address to the nation this time last year, President Barack Obama outlined a plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. It was the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and at that point the United States had already been bombing ISIS in Iraq for about a month, having intervened as the group menaced the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to wipe out the Yazidis, a religious minority. In late August and early September, the group beheaded the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in the Syrian desert, helping prompt an expansion of U.S. airstrikes into Syria.
Obama said in his speech that the United States had already conducted 150 successful airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. A year later, the United States military and its allies have conducted 6,700 airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, sent more than 3,000 U.S. troops to Iraq, and trained thousands more Iraqi troops as well as a handful of Syrian fighters. Here’s one critical indicator of how that campaign, Operation Inherent Resolve, is progressing: a look at how ISIS territory has changed in the year since the U.S.-led military campaign began.
Over the past year of U.S. and allied airstrikes, combined with ground offensives by local forces, the Islamic State has lost territory in some areas and gained it in others. In the maps above, produced by the Institute for the Study of War, the black lines represent areas where ISIS holds its tightest control—encompassing roads and several large population centers. Over time, the black splotches recede in places, namely northwestern Syria along the border with Turkey, outside Baghdad, and near the Iraqi city of Tikrit; and expand in others, namely in central Syria near Palmyra, and in Iraq near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.