2014 U.S. and allies versus Islamic State hostilities and conflicts

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In 2014, hostilities and direct violence between Islamic State (I.S., IS, ISIL, ISIS) and the United States (U.S.), enemies of 2003 (see Background), again flared up, at several instances, over several causes.


Islamic State is possibly at discord with the United States and their allies since the 2003 Iraq War, when I.S. (named as Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn) fought a U.S. coalition (see also section 4, Message of I.S. to the American people); the United States possibly have a spite against Al-Qaeda type organisations like I.S. whom they’ve fought against in 2001 Afghanistan, in 2003 in Iraq, and in 2011 in Pakistan.

I.S. holds U.S. hostages ; U.S. tries to free them

It is being assumed by the United States government that Islamic State during 2012–2014 acquired control and custody over several U.S. citizens who had been kidnapped since 2012 in the Syrian Civil War.[1]

Early July 2014, the United States assumed to have information that American hostages were being held by Islamic State on a location within Syria and dropped two dozen Delta Forces commandos at the location. They did not find those Americans there, killed several IS militants, and left.[1][2]

U.S. airstrikes on I.S. in Iraq

Further details: 2014 American airstrikes in Iraq

During fights in Kurdish-held territory in northern Iraq between Islamic State and Kurdish pesh merga, Islamic State on 7 August 2014 punctured Kurdish defensives. Kurdish forces retreated from Qaraqosh (60 km west of Erbil) and surrounding area, which sent civilians, including Christians and Yazidis, fleeing from Islamic State forces in mass panic.[3]

U.S. military aircraft then on Friday 8 August bombed ISIS artillery units and convoys advancing Erbil and besieging Kurdish forces defending Erbil.[3][4] Also on 7 and 8 August, US aircraft dropped food and water for presumably thousands of Yazidis having fled up a mountain near Sinjar out of fear for approaching hostile ISIL militants.[3][5][6]

On 7 and 9 August, American President Obama explained the purposes of the airstrikes begun 8 August to be:[3][4][7] (1) protecting Americans in Iraq; (2) helping Iraqi minorities stranded on Sinjar Mountain; (3) breaking the siege that had stranded thousands of Yazidi atop that Sinjar mountain; (4) preventing the massacres (genocides) on minority groups announced by ISIS;[4][5] (5) helping Iraqis meet the threat from ISIS. Further US airstrikes on IS in Iraq would follow on 9, 10,12, 16, 17 August and also later (see details in 2014 American airstrikes in Iraq).

I.S. message to the American people

In reaction on the US airstrikes in Iraq since 8 August, Islamic State on 12 August 2014, in a "message to the American government and their sheep like citizens", not only referred to those recent bombings, but also, by referring to the 2003–2011 Iraq War — in which an earlier incarnation of ISIL (Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn) had fought the US — and the 2001 Afghanistan War — in which the US had shot down the since then by them imprisoned Pakistani Muslimah Aafia Siddiqui — seemed to suggest a link with those two earlier American wars in and against Islamic countries, and announced retaliation by killing James Foley, an American journalist kidnapped in 2012:

"We have left you alone since your disgraceful defeat in Iraq. (…) We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention like our sister Afia Sidiqqi. However, you proved very quickly to us that this is NOT what you are interested in."
It said that the US and its government have "no motivation to deal with the Muslims except with the language of force (…) Today our swords are unsheathed towards you, government and citizens alike (…) You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings. The first being the blood of American citizen, James Foley."[8]

Foley beheading video

For further combat details, see 2014 American airstrikes in Iraq ; some further details in James Foley and Steven Sotloff

By 19 August, the US had struck 70 ISIS targets in Iraq, like checkpoints, vehicles and weapon caches. Probably some ISIS militants were killed, but that information was not revealed.[9]

On 19 August 2014, ISIL released a video on several social media websites on Internet of James Foley’s beheading. The video was titled "A message to America",[10] and called Foley’s death a revenge killing for the U.S. airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.[11] The video starts with footage of US President Obama explaining his decision to order airstrikes. Then it shows a man in an orange suit kneeling in the desert. Next to him a man in black with a knife to the throat of the orange man. Foley’s name in English and Arabic writing then appears on the screen. The captive speaks. Then the masked man is shown beginning to cut the neck of the orange man. The video fades to black. Then the video shows the captive lying dead on the ground, his severed head on his body.[9] The video shows at the end another ISIL-hostage, Steven Sotloff, an American-Israeli citizen, and warns that he would be the next killed if U.S. airstrikes would continue.[11]

U.S. reaction: "we will be relentless"

On 20 August, US President Obama reacted by saying: ISIS is a "cancer"; James Foley’s killing has "shocked the conscience of the entire world"; the US "will be vigilant and we will be relentless"; "friends and allies around the world (…) will continue to confront this hateful terrorism and replace it with a sense of hope and civility". While Obama spoke, other US officials announced that the US had that day launched again 14 airstrikes against ISIS targets in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam in Iraq.[12] One of those days, Obama added: "When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done", and the US government said, they would hunt down and punish Foley’s killers.[13]

Sotloff beheading video, featuring Haines

I.S.’s "second message to America"

Some further details: Steven Sotloff

On 2 September 2014, ISIS released a video of the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American-Israeli citizen. The video is titled as a "second message to America" to halt its airstrikes in Iraq.[14]

In the video, an ISIS militant speaks to U.S. president Obama: "Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people". Sotloff himself says in the video that he is "paying the price" for the U.S. military intervention in Iraq.[14]

At the end, the video shows an ISIS militant threatening the life of another man kneeling before him – presumably the next hostage to get killed by ISIS – and the militant says: "We take this opportunity to warn those governments who’ve entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone". The identity of that threatened man was left for the viewers to guess or find out.[14] That identity was, after worldwide publication of the ISIS video, within a day discovered by international media and circulated on the Internet.[15]

U.S. reaction: "degrade and destroy" ISIL

For further combat details, see 2014 American airstrikes in Iraq ; further details, see 2014 American-led intervention in Syria

On 3 September, American President Obama, at the time travelling in Estonia, reacted before noon British Summer Time on the Sotloff beheading video by saying: "We will not be intimidated (…) If we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink Isil’s sphere of influence (…) What we have got to make sure is that we are organising the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community, to isolate this cancer".[16]

Later that day, Obama said, referring to Foley and Sotloff, that the United States would not forget the "terrible crime against these two fine young men", and the U.S. would build a coalition to "degrade and destroy" ISIL.[17] In the following days, several polls in the U.S.A. may have showed that the majority of Americans supported air strikes in both Iraq and Syria against ISIS.[18]

Further US airstrikes on IS in Iraq followed on 8 and 16 September (see details in 2014 American airstrikes in Iraq). On 10 September, President Obama in an address to the nation announced an expansion of air strikes against ISIL in Iraq and for the first time also air strikes against ISIL targets inside Syria, pledging to destroy ISIL fighters "wherever they exist". "Our objective is clear: we will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained air strikes strategy."[18] At that time, the U.S. had since 8 August conducted in Iraq 154 strikes, hit 212 targets, mostly ISIL vehicles but also 21 weapon systems, 29 fighting positions and checkpoints etc. Human ISIL casualties were not revealed.[19]

British reaction: we will "not be cowed"

Some further details: David Haines

In the morning of Wednesday 3 September, the British government acknowledged the hostage shown threatened with death in the ISIL video of 2 September to be a British citizen,[20] and, sooner or later that day, also acknowledged his identity to be David Haines, a humanitarian aid worker.[21]

The British Prime Minister David Cameron, during Prime minister's questions in Parliament (House of Commons) around midday 3 September, said that Islamic State will "be squeezed out of existence", and: "Our opposition to Isil will continue at home and abroad. It is important that we are clear about the nature of the threat we are facing. (…) The only way to defeat it is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message: a country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers".[22]

Haines beheading video, featuring Henning

Some further details: David Haines

A video posted Saturday 13 September to a website associated with ISIS suggested the beheading to have taken place of British citizen David Haines, and to have displayed ISIS’s possible next murder target, British citizen Alan Henning.[23] The video begins with footage of British Prime Minister David Cameron saying: "We have to stick to the very clear foreign policy (…) to fight off these brutal, extremist militants, to work with our allies (…) do everything we can to put pressure on Islamic State, the supporting organization (…)[24]

The video then shows the English written text "A Message to the Allies of America". Then shows Haines in an orange suit on his knees and a man in black standing next to him holding a knife. Then Haines speaking: "(…) I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution. You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor Tony Blair did, following a trend amongst our British prime ministers who can’t find the courage to say no to the Americans (…)"[24] Then the man in black speaking: "This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State (…) Your evil alliance with America, which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq (…) and playing the role of the obedient lapdog, Cameron, will only drag you and your people into another bloody and unwinnable war." Then shows the man in black putting the knife to Haines’ throat.[24]

The video then shows the man in black standing over another man in orange on his knees, indicated as British man Alan Henning. Then the man in black speaking: "If you Cameron, insist on fighting the Islamic State then you, like your master, Obama, will have the blood of your people on your hands".[24]

British Prime Minister Cameron reacted: "We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes."[23]

France attacks I.S. ; counterstroke Jund al-Khilafah

For further combat details, see 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq

Around 15 September 2014, the French Defence Minister Le Drian said that "it is also France’s security that is threatened by this… pseudo-Islamic State".[25] On 18 September, the French President François Hollande agreed to an Iraqi request for air support targeting IS.[26] "France has taken its responsabilities", Hollande said on 18 September. "I’ve been to Iraq to meet with the Iraqi authorities. They’ve asked me just one thing: French support for aerial operations. (…) I’ve decided to respond to that Iraqi demand (…) I affirm the need for that aerial support. There will be no other support, no troups on the ground, and we shall intervene nowhere except in Iraq".[27]

19 September, French Rafale aircraft carried out a first attack against a logistic centre of ISIS (Daesh, the French call them) in Iraq, the target was hit and destroyed.[28]

On 22 September, Algerian militant group Jund al-Khilafah released a video stating it had kidnapped Frenchman Hervé Gourdel and giving French President François Hollande a 24-hour deadline to stop airstrikes on IS.[29]

U.S. bombards I.S. in Syria ; Gourdel beheading video

For further combat details, see 2014 American-led intervention in Syria

On 23 September, U.S. and Arab allies started bombing ISIL groups in Syria, killing scores of ISIL fighters.[30] Between 23 and 26 September, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates took part in the airstrikes, Qatar played a supporting role, the US said.[31] "It must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people", US president Obama commented.[30]

On 24 September, a 5-minute video – composed quite similar to the three ISIL beheading videos mentioned earlier in this article – was posted on Twitter reporting the beheading of Frenchman Hervé Gourdel in Algeria by Jund al-Khilafah, purportedly fulfilling an order of Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, senior leader of ISIL, to attack citizens of countries fighting with the U.S. against ISIL.[29] The video begins with footage of French President Hollande.[29]

United Kingdom attacks I.S.

For further combat details, see 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq

On Friday 26 September 2014, the Parliament of the United Kingdom voted by 524 votes to 43 to join "the US-led coalition" fighting against Islamic State and to start air strikes against IS in Iraq, suggested the BBC.[32][33]
Seemingly in contradiction with this announcement, the BBC mentioned that according to British Prime Minister David Cameron Britain was about to play its part in the international coalition against IS which was being led by the legitimate government of Iraq — so perhaps the conclusion should be that the UK is bombing IS in a UK-led operation.

Unclear from the news bulletins remains the motivation for the UK to decide to bombard IS. One news bulletin suggestively mentions that IS controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq[33] — which perhaps displeased the British Parliament. Another BBC bulletin suggestively mentions that two British hostages are thought to be held by IS[32] — perhaps the Parliament hoped to get these men out by bombing IS targets.

On 30 September, British Tornados have begun with air strikes against vehicles and weapons positions of IS in Iraq and hitting IS targets.[34] On 2 October, Prime Minister David Cameron said the British aim was "to defeat these barbaric Isil terrorists who threaten security not just in Iraq, Syria and the region but on the streets of Britain too".[34]

Belgium and the Netherlands attack I.S.

For further combat details, see 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq

The Belgian Parliament, in response to the demand from the United Nations Security Council in its meeting of 19 September on the international community to "reinforce and expand its support to Iraq in its strife against IS", and also in response to demands from the Iraqi and U.S.' governments,[35] on 26 September approved to send six F16 fighter jets to fight ISIS in Iraq, by a vote of 114 against 2.[31] On 5 October, a Belgian F16 dropped its first bomb on an Islamic State target, east of Baghdad.[36]

The Netherlands on 24 September declared to deploy also six F16s to the international combat against ISIS, said deputy Dutch Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher that day.[37] He motivated the Dutch decision by saying that the threat of ISIS "can affect anyone. Also the safety on Dutch streets".[37] On 7 October, Dutch jet fighters for the first time dropped bombs on IS targets, in the north of Iraq.[38]

Henning beheading video, featuring Kassig

Some further details: Alan Henning

On Friday 3 October, ISIS released a video showing the apparent beheading of British citizen Alan Henning.[39][40] The executioner in the video blames his killing on the United Kingdom for its joining the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS.[39] In the video, Henning himself speaks to the camera, referencing the British Parliament’s decision to participate in a coalition against ISIS.[39]

The video ends with a masked IS fighter threatening U.S. citizen Peter Kassig with death: "Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment of Shams [Syria], which keeps on striking our people, so it is only right that we continue to strike the neck of your people".[41]

The British Prime Minister David Cameron reacted on 3 and 4 October: Britain would do all it could "to hunt down these murderers",[42] and: "anyone in any doubt about this organisation can now see how truly repulsive it is and barbaric it is (…) This is going to be our struggle now, that with others we must do everything we can to defeat this organisation".[43] Nick Clegg, deputy British Prime Minister, added: ISIS is "twisting … religion to its own end (…) If you are doing this to drag us into a religious war on your terms, you won’t".[43]

Promises to attack I.S.

For further combat details, see 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq and 2014 American-led intervention in Syria

Two more countries have declared to be willing or preparing to attack ISIL targets with airstrikes but haven’t yet actually done so:

  • Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on 3 October, at the request of and in support of the Iraqi government, authorized air strikes against ISIL in Iraq and said the Australian purpose was to "disrupt and degrade" Islamic State "at home and abroad".[44]
  • Canada’s government on 3 October informed the Canadian Parliament of its intent to contribute militarily to "the fight against ISIL, and terrorists allied with ISIL".[45] Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that day: "We intend to significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL" so that "the risks presented from the territory in which it operates will be significantly reduced".[46]
    On 7 October, the Canadian Parliament (House of Commons) voted with 157 against 134 votes in favour of Canadian airstrikes against ISIS. After this parliamentary approval, PM Stephen Harper said: "If left unchecked, this terrorist organization will grow and grow quickly. They have already (…) identified Canada as a potential target".[47]

Italy has offered assistance in refueling planes of countries executing airstrikes on ISIL.[31]


By 29 September 2014, 240 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria had taken place since 8 August, 74% of them executed by the U.S.[48] By 31 October, the U.S. had led 36 rounds of airstrikes in Syria (see the details, also for the material losses, in 2014 American-led intervention in Syria and 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq).

Human casualties

The website of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that at the end of October 2014, 553 people had been killed by ‘the U.S. led coalition’ airstrikes in Syria alone, since 23 September.[49]

Casualties in Iraq caused by joint operations of U.S. and Iraqi forces against ISIL since 8 August are rarely reported and provisionally add up to 76, as of 8 September.[50][51]

Casualties on the side of U.S. and allies count up to three U.S. Marines (see the details in 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq and 2014 American-led intervention in Syria), and the above mentioned five killed American and European hostages.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Julia Pace (20 August 2014). "Officials: U.S. rescue mission in Syria failed". Yahoo! News. AP. https://news.yahoo.com/officials-us-rescue-mission-syria-failed-223157934--politics.html. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  2. 'The failed US mission to try and rescue James Foley from Islamic State terrorists', The Telegraph, 21 August 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
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  18. 18.0 18.1 "Obama outlines plan to target IS fighters". Al Jazeera. 11 September 2014. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/obama-strike-wherever-it-exists-2014910223935601193.html. Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  19. ‘Here’s A Rundown Of US Strikes On ISIS So Far’. Business Insider, 10 September 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
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  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 "Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria Beheads French Hostage in Video". SITE Intelligence Group. 24 September 2014. http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/entry/289-jund-al-khilafah-in-algeria-beheads-french-hostage-in-video. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
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  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 'Which Countries Are Doing What in the ISIS Coalition?' NBCNews, 26 September 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
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  42. "Alan Henning 'killed by Islamic State'". BBC. 4 October 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29485405. Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  43. 43.0 43.1 "Alan Henning murder: David Cameron vows to defeat ISIS". the Guardian. 4 October 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/04/alan-henning-hostage-killing-harsh-price-isis-syria. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
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  51. John Beck (September 8, 2014). "Iraqi Forces Have Pushed Back Islamic State Fighters From the Haditha Dam". Vice News. https://news.vice.com/article/iraqi-forces-have-pushed-back-islamic-state-fighters-from-the-haditha-dam. Retrieved 23 November 2014.