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Germany’s anticipation of and response to ISIS’ rise to power: overview of open-source knowledge claims and policy responses

Research output: Book/ReportReportpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
PublisherKing's College London
Number of pages89
Published5 Mar 2021


King's Authors


This period is relevant for an understanding of how the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) gradually established itself as a powerful and destructive actor in Iraq and Syria and how it reached beyond its core conflict zone. The chronological overview starts with crucial developments in Syria (ISIS expanding its footprint in northern Syria and tightening its grip on Raqqa while increasingly fighting other rebel groups) and in Iraq (July 2013 marked the successful conclusion of ISIS’ “Breaking the Walls” campaign, the beginning of its “Soldier’s Harvest” campaign and a sharp increase in violent attacks against predominantly Shia targets). The overview ends with the beginning of ISIS’ northern Iraq offensive and on the day before Mosul and its international airport fell to ISIS. By then, Europe had just experienced its first terrorist attack (Jewish Museum Brussels) linked to ISIS and to the phenomenon of returning foreign fighters, highlighting the immense challenges for European intelligence cooperation and counterterrorism.

This overview is based on a systematic analysis of open-source data published during this time. Three groups of non-governmental experts have been selected as authoritative sources of knowledge:
• researchers at international NGOs (International Crisis Group/ICG, Human Rights Watch/HRW, Amnesty International),
• journalists reporting for German media organisations (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung/FAZ, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit),
• analysts at a German think tank (German Institute for International and Security Affairs/SWP).

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