The rise of a previously obscure militant group that sought to overthrow Syrian President Bashir al Assad were first noted somewhere around September or October 2013. The then militant group that called itself as ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-‘Irāq wash-Shām
(loosely translated to ISIL or Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) was headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a man believed to be a former inmate of the infamous Abu Ghraib Prison (he was imprisoned in Camp Bucca, where former interns of Abu Ghraib were placed after the Abu Ghraib scandal was broken to the world.
Back then, the civil war in Syria had worsened and US government had begun to supply weapons to militant groups in Syria that were opposed to Bashar's government. Apparently, some of the weapons that were supplied by the US were later found to have made their way back to Iraq and were used in several attacks within Iraq itself. It was only then that the US government realized that the ISIL that they had been supplying weapons to fight the Syrian government were actually the same Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI or Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn). This was despite the fact that Iraqi military intelligence had warned the Americans of the links between the two groups.
|DS Hishammuddin in answering the Q&A session during 3rd National Aspiration and Leadership Symposium|