Confessions of an ISIS Spy

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

A former ISIS spy describes the situation inside the Caliphate:

Before the fight for the Kurdish town of Kobani last year, the caliphate had an aura of invincibility, and people from around the world were rushing to envelop themselves in the black flag of messianic victory. But in that battle, which lasted for months, Kurdish paramilitaries backed by U.S. airpower fought well, while ISIS — at least as far as Abu Khaled characterizes it — needlessly sent thousands to their slaughter, without any tactical, much less strategic, forethought. The jihadist army had lost between 4,000 and 5,000 fighters, most of them non-Syrians.

“Double this number are wounded and can’t fight anymore,” Abu Khaled told me. “They lost a leg or a hand.” Immigrants, then, are requisitioned as cannon fodder? He nodded. In September of last year, at the apogee of ISIS’s foreign recruitment surge, he says the influx of foreigners amazed even those welcoming them in. “We had like 3,000 foreign fighters who arrived every day to join ISIS. I mean, every day. And now we don’t have even like 50 or 60.”

This sudden shortfall has led to a careful rethinking by ISIS high command of how inhabitants outside of Syria and Iraq can best serve the cause. “The most important thing,” Abu Khaled said, “is that they are trying to make sleeper cells all over the world.” The ISIS leadership has “asked people to stay in their countries and fight there, kill citizens, blow up buildings, whatever they can do. You don’t have to come.”

Some of the jihadists under Abu Khaled’s tutelage have already left al-Dawla, the state, as he puts it, and gone back to their nations of origin. He mentioned two Frenchmen in their early 30s. What were their names? Abu Khaled claimed not to know. “We don’t ask these kinds of questions. We are all ‘Abu Something.’ Once you start asking about personal histories, this is the ultimate red flag.”

Following the Paris terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, which occurred almost a month after our meeting in Turkey, I contacted Abu Khaled. Now back in Aleppo, he told me that he was fairly certain that one or both of these French nationals were involved in some way in the coordinated assault, the worst atrocity to befall France since World War II, which has killed at least 132 and left almost as many critically wounded.

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