The Master Plan ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory Brian H. Fishman

Publication date:
07 Feb 2017
Yale University Press
376 pages: 235 x 156 x 25mm
17 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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 previously served as director of research at the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy. As a professor at West Point, he taught the first dedicated course on the Islamic State of Iraq in spring 2008.

"Brian Fishman’s The Master Plan provides a comprehensive history of the Islamic State’s strategic evolution, covering the personalities and events that shaped one of the most feared terrorist­insurgent groups that has ever existed. Eminently readable, in places even amusing — no small feat in a book about IS — Fishman flips with ease between the overview and the granular to demonstrate his points, using new sources that will allow as much supplementary research as a reader could wish for, and ties it together in a narrative that will be of use to both specialists and generalists."—Kyle Orton, Fathom

"The definitive history of the Islamic State—told by one of a handful of experts who studied the group long before it became what it is today.”—Peter Neumann, King’s College London

"With its original and powerful analysis, The Master Plan should be required reading for anyone attempting to understand both ISIS and al-Qaeda and the implications for contemporary global security."—Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University

"For too many years, the United States and its allies have failed to understand the ideological drive of the people who lead ISIS. Brian Fishman tells us who they are, what they think and where they hope to be headed. His work needs to be read by policy makers and average citizens alike."—General John P. Abizaid, U.S. Army (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Central Command

"Brian Fishman's Master Plan is a deeply researched account of ISIS' rise to prominence from its obscure roots in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Fishman masterfully elucidates the organization's history, tactics and strategy."—Peter Bergen, author of United States of Jihad