Understanding Current Conflicts: ISIS
ISIS is a Sunni Islamist terror group based in the Middle East and North Africa. An active terrorist organization since 2004 (source), ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and is sometimes referred to as ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). They splintered from Iraqi Al-Qaeda forces and gained their own momentum after American troops gradually began withdrawing from Iraq.
ISIS draws much of its legitimacy from its followers through religion. Members hold that the Muslim world can and should return to the purity and unity of early Islam (source). ISIS uses twenty to thirty thousand fighters, as well as other employees who run outreach and administration, according to United States Intelligence estimates. (source) Since 2011 they have an estimated 15,000 new foreign recruits, coming mainly from other countries in the Middle East.
Using high-profile kidnappings and assassinations for propaganda and outreach, ISIS is noted for their extreme violence as compared to other global terror groups in the Middle East. (source) Guerilla warfare tactics, oil sales, taxes on individuals and businesses, extortion and kidnapping with ransoms are several of their main sources of funding.(source)
ISIS forces have attacked many areas with Kurdish minorities, such as Mosul, Kobane (also known as Kobani), and the Yazidi Kurdish minority in the mountains of Northern Iraq. Kurds living in Iraq and Syria face less targeting from ISIS forces due to the chaotic nature of their ruling governments. The U.S. currently leads a coalition of over 60 countries and states who officially oppose ISIS practices. (source) This coalition has come to the aid of of the Kurds and their defense forces.