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December 13, 2019

Reporting from the front lines of the war against the Islamic State

A review of Mike Giglio's “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate”

By Nicholas Heras

The rise of the Islamic State has haunted headlines throughout the world for the better part of a decade and has disrupted American plans to pivot to its intensifying competition with China and Russia. In “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate,” Mike Giglio, an intelligence and national security correspondent for the Atlantic, tracks the growth and decline of the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria at the ground level, among local Syrians, Iraqis, Turks and others who experienced the war firsthand.

Giglio, who was previously based in Istanbul for BuzzFeed, draws heavily from his experiences mingling with the smugglers, spies, refugees, aid workers, journalists and jihadists on Turkey’s southern frontier with Syria. Giglio even travels into the heart of darkness itself, the Islamic State’s so-called capital — the northwestern Iraqi city of Mosul — where he chronicles the battle to wrest the city away from the terrorists, a grinding, bloody endeavor waged by various barely coordinated Iraqi security forces (Kurds, Arabs and others), all backed by the United States and its allies.

“Shatter the Nations” is not a comprehensive repository of all things related to the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq or globally. Instead, readers should expect quirky and important discoveries about the war and its transnational impact on oil smuggling, the running of refugees into Europe and the black market for antiquities. These activities helped support the Islamic State’s war machine, and Giglio is in his element explaining how they fit together as the militant group started to grow into a monster force. He rolled into battle with members of America’s local counter-Islamic State partners, and he captures the makeup of this motley crew.

Read the full article in The Washington Post.

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