The Islamic State has lost almost all its territorial control in Syria and Iraq and thus a central part of its claim to constitute a caliphate. As the international community takes stock, it is necessary to discard the myth of the group simply being a product of al-Qa`ida. Despite its history as a local al-Qa`ida affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State developed from an ideological and cultural trend born in late-1980s Afghanistan that was always in tension with the core idea and identity of al-Qa`ida.
“The conflict between the Islamic State and the leadership of al-Qaeda is one of method … This is the issue. It is not an issue of allegiance of whom to whom.”
– Islamic State Spokesman Abu-Muhammad al-Adnani, May 2014
The Islamic State grew out of al-Qa`ida. The Islamic State’s founding father, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the leaders of al-Qa`ida initiated contact back in 1999 in Afghanistan, and five years later, al-Zarqawi’s group ‘Jamaat al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad’ became an official al-Qa`ida affiliate. In February 2014, their common history ended, however, as the Islamic State was finally expelled from al-Qa`ida as a result of its disobedience and aggressive attitude toward other mujahideen.