The Brutal Rise of a Terrorist Army
278 pages. Occasional black-and-white photos in text. Introduction, appendix (Al-Madina Treatise), acknowledgments, and author's note.
This book was published in 2015 as a warning to the world of the rise of a significant terrorist threat: ISIS. The author, Benjamin Hall, was one of the most experienced journalists from the Middle East, often embedded with the anti-ISIS militias.
It is written in a very readable style, with 29 short chapters covering everything from the rise of ISIS, ISIS doctrine, ISIS on the battlefield, atrocities and abuses, places where ISIS is active, and warnings for the future.
Although the ISIS caliphate is a memory now, the material in this book remains useful for those interested in understanding radical Middle Eastern movements, or recreating their battles on the tabletop.
Some of the book is autobiographical, as the author relates his own experiences on the ground. He was lucky enough to avoid serious mishap, but wargamers may find scenario ideas from the things that almost happened in pursuit of news:
The first day we arrived, the head of the FSA battalion in the region granted us permission to move forward to the frontline and watch the imminent attack, so we had driven through the abandoned villages to the north of the base, sped dangerously down a muddy road covered by an Assad tank, and finally moved forward on foot through the remnants of the shelled out buildings. It was an eerie place; we knew what force lay ahead, but could see nobody around. We crept closer to the wall of the airbase, and making it to the front, peeked through a hole to see what lay ahead.
It had been a ghost town when we arrived – silent – when suddenly bullets started to fly from all directions. Assad's forces had changed positions, flanking the front wall and, we were suddenly trapped. They had our escape route covered from their watch towers and the only way back was across the open field the way we'd come – but this was under fire. We knew it wouldn't be long till an RPG exploded on our position, and so after some quick radio calls, we made the decision to run for it…
This is not some dry analysis from someone in a think tank somewhere, but a comprehensive overview from someone who has had his boots on the ground. Recommended.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .