Jihadist training camps proliferate in Iraq and Syria

Map of known provincial locations of training camps run by the Islamic State, the Al Nusrah Front, and allied jihadist groups since 2012. Map created by Caleb Weiss and Bill Roggio.

Since the Syrian civil war began in the spring of 2011, the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other allied jihadist groups have operated more than 30 training camps inside Iraq and Syria. While global jihadist groups have primarily used camps to indoctrinate and train fighters for local insurgencies as part of the effort to establish a global caliphate, in the past al Qaeda has used its camps to support attacks against the West.

The Long War Journal has compiled information on the camps from jihadist videos, news accounts, and US military press releases that note airstrikes against the training facilities. It is unclear if all of the training camps are currently in operation. In addition, this analysis is compiled using publicly-available evidence. It is likely that some training camps are not advertised.

Since the beginning of 2012, a total of 37 camps have been identified as being operational. Of those camps, 28 are in Syria, and nine are in Iraq.

The Islamic State, the al Qaeda splinter group that was disowned by al Qaeda’s general command in February 2014, operates the largest number of training facilities, with eight camps in Iraq and 12 more in Syria…

This looks bad. It seems clear that Iraq, even with the help of airstrikes, can barely hold back the tide. In Syria, things seems to be at stalemate. These jihadi groups are not going away anytime soon. Perhaps all we can hope for is that they gain no more territory. We can help with airstrikes, and arming Kurds. Fretting about an independent Kurdish state seems academic when Islamic State is in control of a large swath of Iraq and all signs point to them staying there.