Military Wiki
2014 military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Part of the Global War on Terrorism, Iraqi Civil War, and Syrian Civil War
2014 military intervention against ISIS collage.png
Top: Two U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft flying over northern Iraq. Left: F-22 Raptor refueling before a strike in Syria. Right: Peshmerga special forces gathered near Syria. Bottom: An American F/A-18C Hornet aboard the USS George H.W. Bush prior to the launch of operations over Iraq.
Date16 June 2014 – present (8 years, 1 month, 3 weeks and 5 days)
LocationIraq and Syria


  • Airstrikes on ISIL positions in Iraq and Syria
  • Multinational humanitarian effort
  • Arming and support for local ground forces
  • 2 American journalists, 2 British humanitarian workers and 1 French tourist executed;[31][32][33]

American-led coalitions:
Intervening in Iraq & Syria: United States
Only intervening in Iraq:
 United Kingdom[12]
Only intervening in Syria:
 Saudi Arabia



Local forces in Iraq:
Iraq Iraq Government (supported by US & allies & Iran)

  • Shi'a militias (supported by Iran)[27]

 Iraqi Kurdistan (by US & allies, Iran and foreign Kurds)[28]

Local forces in Syria:
Selected groups in the Syrian Opposition (US & allies)

Syrian Kurdistan Syrian Kurdistan (US & allies, & foreign Kurds)

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Opposed by ISIL, US-led Coalitions, and others

Commanders and leaders

Barack Obama
Chuck Hagel
Lloyd Austin
Andrew J. Loiselle
David Cameron
Michael Fallon
Andrew Pulford
Nick Clegg[34]
Stephen Harper
Rob Nicholson
Thomas J. Lawson
Yvan Blondin
Tony Abbott
David Johnston
David Johnston
Craig Orme[35]
France François Hollande[36]
France Jean-Yves Le Drian
France Pierre de Villiers
Netherlands Mark Rutte
Netherlands Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert
Netherlands Frans Timmermans
Sander Schnitger
Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Peter Bartram

Syria Bashar al-Assad
Syria Ali Abdullah Ayyoub
Iran Ali Khamenei
Hassan Nasrallah

Masoud Barzani
Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa
Mustafa Said Qadir

Iraq Fuad Masum
Iraq Nouri al-Maliki
Iraq Haider al-Abadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Abu Mohammad al-Adnani
Abu Hajar al-Souri
(Top Aide)[37]
Ali Mohammed al-Shayer(Senior ISIL Leader)[38]
Adnan Khudhair(Senior ISIL Leader)[38]

Okasha al-Baghdadi(Senior ISIL Leader)[38]

Islamic Republic of Iran:

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant: 31,500 troops[62]
Casualties and losses

United States

  • 1 American Marine killed[63]
  • 1 American soldier wounded [64]
  • 2 American civilians (James Foley and Steven Sotloff) executed[65]
  • 1 American F-15 damaged.[66]
  • 1 UAV crashed


  • 1 French civilian executed[67]

 United Kingdom

  • 2 British aid workers executed[68]


  • 3 Iranian soldiers killed [69]


  • 1 Jordanian soldier wounded (not confirmed)


unknown number of foreign civilians captured
  • 500+ fighters killed in Iraq
  • 162 vehicles
  • 21 weapons systems (as of mid-September)[70]
  • 1 weapons depot destroyed[36]

Amidst increasing advances by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated ISIL, ISIS, and also called "Islamic State") militants in June and July 2014, many states began to intervene in the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Iraq. Rapid territorial gains from ISIL military operations in Iraq and Syria in the first half of 2014 combined with internationally condemned brutality, reported human rights abuses, and fear of further spillovers of the Syrian Civil War caused many countries to consider interventions.[71] With different agendas and political considerations in a complex situation, countries have approached intervening in the two civil war conflicts in different ways, and to different degrees.

American-led intervention in Iraq

Starting in August 2014, the United States assembled a coalition of partner countries to combat ISIL. Various countries contributed aircraft, military aid to local ground forces, military advisors to train local forces in-country, and bases for operations and training of local ground forces. In addition to military efforts, many countries mounted a considerable humanitarian effort to assist ethnic minorities in northern Iraq who are under the threat of genocide or had fled from ISIL in Iraqi Kurdistan and other areas.

In August, speaking about US involvement in Iraq, President Barack Obama said "this is going to be a long-term project".[72] The military effort subsequently expanded to protect Iraqi infrastructure and provide air cover to Iraqi troops. Since the commencement and expansion of American airstrikes against the Islamic State, Kurdish and Iraqi forces have been able to reverse significant extremist advances and retake control of the Mosul Dam, the largest dam in Iraq. In late August, when asked by reporters about his plans regarding military options in response to gains made by ISIS, President Obama replied “we don’t have a strategy yet”.[73] President Obama announced on 10 September 2014 that he would begin to pursue airstrikes in Syria with or without congressional approval; he also announced that the number of airstrikes in Iraq would increase.[74]

Humanitarian efforts

Bottled water containers are loaded on a U.S. Air Force C-17 for an airdrop on 8 August.

The US, the UK, and Australia, supported by international partners, launched a large humanitarian effort to support refugees stranded in northern Iraq. This included air-dropping tens of thousands of meals and thousands of gallons of drinking water to Yazidi refugees stranded in the Sinjar mountains and threatened by advancing ISIL forces, from 7 August through 14 in what was later described as "the first mass air delivery of humanitarian cargo since the outbreak of violence in East Timor in 1999."[75][76][77][78][79]

American airstrikes

President Obama speaks about the "game plan" for dealing with ISIL.

Locations where the U.S has launched airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq (as of 16 September.)

U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighters bomb Islamic State artillery targets on 8 August 2014.

In the summer of 2014 U.S. forces started undertaking reconnaissance missions over northern Iraq.[80][81][82] On 7 August, President Obama gave a live address describing the worsening conditions in Iraq and that the plight of the Yazidis particular had convinced him that U.S. military action was necessary to protect American lives, protect minority groups in Iraq, and to stop a possible ISIL advance on Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region.[83] On 8 August the United States started to bomb ISIL targets in Iraq.[84][85] By 10 August, assisted by these air attacks, Kurdish forces claimed to have recaptured the towns of Mahmour and Gweyr[86] from Islamic State control. Additional Iraqi airstrikes conducted in Sinjar claim to have killed 45 ISIS militants and injured an additional 60 militants.[87] The Pentagon characterized airstrikes as stopgap military actions that would not be able to significantly disrupt Islamic State activities.[88] On 14 August, U.S air-strikes and Kurdish ground forces had broken the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar, allowing thousands of Yazidi refugees to escape.[89]

The U.S. announced a shift in focus to arming the Kurds and reversing ISIL gains.[90][91] On 16 August, U.S. air power began a close air campaign aimed at supporting the advance of Kurdish fighters moving toward the Mosul Dam. Kurdish sources commented is was the largest American air effort yet seen in the war.[92][93] On 8 September, the Iraqi army with close air support from U.S. retoke the key Haditha dam and recapture the town of Barwana killing 15 ISIL fighters.[94] ISIL responded with the public execution of David Haines.[68]

By the end of September 2014, the United States had conducted 240 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, as well as 1,300 tanker refueling missions, totaling 3,800 sorties by all types of aircraft. A tactical arrangement with Kurdish and Iraqi forces and drone video is being used to coordinate close air support without needing U.S. troops in ground combat.[95]

American ground forces

In July, Obama announced that owing to the continuing violence in Iraq and the growing influence of non-state actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the United States would be elevating its security commitment in the region. Approximately 800 U.S. troops secured American installations like the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate in Erbil as well as taking control of strategic locations like the Baghdad airport in cooperation with Iraqi troops.[96][97]

U.S. forces also undertook a mission to "assess and to advise [Iraqi security forces] as they confront [ISIL] and the complex security situation on the ground.”[98] Reports from these American units about the capabilities of the Iraqi military have been consistently grim, viewing them as "compromised" by sectarian interests.[99][100][101]

On 13 August, the U.S. deployed another 130 military advisers to Northern Iraq[102] and up to 20 U.S. Marines and special forces servicemen landed on Mount Sinjar from V-22 aircraft to coordinate the evacuation of Yazidi refugees joining British SAS already in the area.[103]

On 3 September announced increase of U.S. forces in Iraq to 1,213.[104] On 10 September, Obama gave a speech reiterating that American troops will not fight in combat but about 500 more troops will be sent to Iraq to help train Iraqi forces.[74]

Nameless intervention

Unlike their coalition partners, and unlike previous America combat operations, no name has been given to the 2014 conflict against ISIS by the American government.[105] The decision to keep the conflict nameless has drawn considerable media criticism.[106][107][108][109][110] American Servicemen remain ineligible for Campaign medals and other service decorations due to the continuing ambiguous nature of the American Intervention.[111]

Australian airstrikes

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Australian cabinet approved on 3 October for RAAF Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter bombers to begin airstrikes against Islamic State militants. Abbott said "It is in our national interest that we do so, it is in the interests of civilisation that we do so. It is in everyone’s best interests that the murderous rage of the ISIL death cult be checked and rolled back and that’s what we’re determined to do." [112]

On 6 October Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin announced two Super Hornets had conducted armed combat missions over Iraq although no armaments were expended. An Australian Air task Group KC-30A and an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft have also been flying in support to fighter bombers belonging to coalition forces. The KC-30A performs airborne refueling for coalition aircraft.[113] Binskin said "One of our Super Hornet packages on the first night … had an identified target which it was tracking and that particular target moved into an urban area where the risks of conducting a strike on that target increased to a point where it exceeded our expectations of collateral damage, so they discontinued the attack at that point." [114]

On 9 October Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that RAAF Super Hornets had been involved in a "strike missions on an ISIL position in Iraq”.[115] The aircraft dropped two bombs onto what was described by the Defence Force to be an "ISIL facility"[116]

British airstrikes

On 26 September, the House of Commons approved by 524–43 British airstrikes in Iraq.[117] Hours later, six Tornado GR4 strike aircraft of No. 2 Squadron RAF stationed at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus were prepared for their first armed sorties over Iraq. The operation was given the code name "Operation Shader" by the Royal Air Force.[118] Although the UK Parliament has only backed airstrikes in Iraq, Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that there is also a "strong case" for airstrikes in Syria and British operations may extend to the country if a "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolds. He went on to state that any extension of airstrikes from Iraq into Syria would not require another House of Commons vote.[119]

On 27 September, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that the first two Tornado GR4 strike aircraft had begun flying armed sorties over Iraq.[120]

On 3 October, during a surprise visit to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that two additional Tornado GR4 strike aircraft were to arrive at the airbase to help support operations over Iraq. By 6 October, both aircraft had arrived at the airbase bringing the total number of deployed Tornado GR4's to eight.

On 6 October, reports emerged that the UK Ministry of Defence was considering the deployment of armed MQ-9 Reaper drones which are currently being used by British forces in Afghanistan.[121]

French airstrikes

On 19 September, the French air force used its Rafale jets to conduct airstrikes on ISIS targets in Mosul. The airstrikes were approved by French President François Hollande, which indicated that France was committed to fighting ISIS using air power alongside America.[36] Hollande mentioned that no ground troops would be used in the conflict.[122]

Military aid

On 5 August 2014, Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the U.N., wrote in the Washington Post that the United States is involved in "the direct supply of munitions to the Kurds and, with Baghdad's agreement, the shipment of some Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program weapons to the Kurds."[123] The United States moved from indirectly supplying Kurdistan with small arms through the CIA to directly giving them weapons such as man-portable anti-tank systems.[124]

In a coordinated effort lead by the United States, many allied countries including NATO members and Middle Eastern partners have supplied or plan to supply Iraqi and/or Kurdish forces with heavy military equipment, small arms, ammunition, non-lethal military gear, and training support.

Iranian airstrikes and ground operations

In June 2014, Iran committed approximately 500 soldiers of the elite Qods Force to Iraq to help shore-up that nation's government in the face of ISIL advances.[60] Qods Force personnel were deployed to Samarra, Baghdad, Karbala, and the abandoned U.S. military post formerly known as Camp Speicher. On 25 July, Qods Force soldier Shojaat Alamdari was killed in Samarra while operating as a forward air controller in action against ISIL.[61] Reports have indicated that former Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani is acting as the Iraqi government's "chief tactician" during the anti-ISIS operations.[60][61] Seven Su-27 aircraft and some drones[61] were sent by Iran, where they operated against ISIL with bi-national Iranian/Iraqi crews.

Other interventions across the conflict zone

Iraqi Kurdistan and Syrian Kurdistan have de facto governments autonomous from the national government with their own armies while in Iran and Turkey the Kurds maintain rebel armies. These various Kurdish forces have been crossing into Syria and Iraq to fight ISIL with local Kurds. The US-led coalition is not known to be coordinating directly with the intervening Iranian or Turkish Kurds, but is coordinating with the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds.

American-led military intervention in Syria

Hostage rescue attempt

On 4 July, the U.S. bombed the "Osama bin Laden" ISIS military base in the village of Uqayrishah, Syria. Two dozen American Delta Force commandos then touched down in an effort to rescue hostages including James Foley.[64][125][126][127] In a series of videos Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff, and several more hostages were murdered.[128][129]

Aerial surveillance

On 26 August, the U.S. began sending surveillance flights, including drones, into Syria to gather intelligence. The Syrian Arab Republic was not asked for permission.[130][131]

Arming rebels

United States

At the direction of President Obama, the American Central Intelligence Agency played an active role since the early stages of the Syrian Civil War. The U.S. originally supplied the moderate rebels of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid but soon escalated to providing training, cash and intelligence to selected rebel commanders.[132][133][134]

On 17 September, the House of Representatives voted on authorize spending to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels.[135]

Saudi Arabia

According to the United States Department of Defense, Saudi Arabia has proposed that they would provide training to Syrian rebels so they could return to Syria and battle ISIL.[136]

Multi-national airstrikes

Starting 23 September, the U.S. Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates began airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria[13] with fighters, bombers, and sea-based Tomahawk cruise missiles.[137] which continue. Additionally, on the first night only US forces launched eight cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda affiliated Khorasan.[138]

Other foreign interventions in Syria

The Syrian Civil War functions as a proxy war and has had many foreign interventions supporting various sides in the conflict. There have also been actions taken by all adjoining nations impacted by spillover. Significant humanitarian aid has been provided to conflict victims.

ISIL forces


Conflict Armament Research, a private arms-tracking organization, has concluded that ISIL military forces are using ammunition of United States and Chinese manufacture. According to CAR, these are most likely munitions transferred by the U.S. and Chinese governments to regional actors for use against ISIL troops which are being captured as local forces disintegrate.[139] A U.S. Department of Defense Inspector-General report concluded that the U.S. had lost track of nearly 250,000 small arms that were provided to the security forces of Afghanistan; some of this quantity may have made its way into ISIS hands. In addition to small arms and ammunition, heavy equipment is frequently or often of American manufacture. Over a six-week period in late summer and early fall, the U.S. Air Force destroyed at least three dozen U.S.-made Humvees being operated by ISIL, which were originally donated by the U.S. to the Iraqi army.[140]


Early estimates put ISIL forces at about 10,000, however, in September, the Central Intelligence Agency increased its estimate to a high of 31,500 ground troops.[141]

Blowback in Turkey and Western Europe

In early October 2014, as the town of Kobanê on the border with Turkey began to fall to ISIL troops, thousands of Kurds and others began to hold protests throughout Turkey and Western Europe, causing at least 14 deaths and injuring scores of others. The Parliament of the Netherlands was briefly occupied as was a floor of the European one.[142]

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