An incisive narrative history of the Islamic State, from the 2005 master plan to reestablish the Caliphate to its quest for Final Victory in 2020 Given how quickly its operations have achieved global impact, it may seem that the Islamic State materialized suddenly. In fact, al-Qaeda's operations chief, Sayf al-Adl, devised a seven-stage plan for jihadis to conquer the world by 2020 that included reestablishing the Caliphate in Syria between 2013 and 2016. Despite a massive schism between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, al-Adl's plan has proved remarkably prescient. In summer 2014, ISIS declared itself the Caliphate after capturing Mosul, Iraq-part of stage five in al-Adl's plan. Drawing on large troves of recently declassified documents captured from the Islamic State and its predecessors, counterterrorism expert Brian Fishman tells the story of this organization's complex and largely hidden past-and what the master plan suggests about its future. Only by understanding the Islamic State's full history-and the strategy that drove it-can we understand the contradictions that may ultimately tear it apart.
Brian Fishman is a counterterrorism research fellow with the International Security Program at New America. He is the former Research Director at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point, where he taught the country's first dedicated course on the Islamic State of Iraq. He lives in Menlo Park, CA.