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How surprising was ISIS’ rise to power for the German intelligence community? Reconstructing estimates of likelihood prior to the fall of Mosul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalIntelligence and National Security
E-pub ahead of print18 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

King's Authors


This article provides a first attempt at evaluating the performance of the German intelligence community when anticipating ISIS’ rise to power in Syria and Iraq and its reach into Europe in 2013–2014. It applies a new analytical framework for postmortem exercises after foreign policy crises, which centres on nuanced discussions of surprise and contextualised assessments of performance. This article finds evidence of partial to significant surprise among German intelligence analysts vis-à-vis four key events. Their performance was hindered by diagnostic difficulties and structural constraints, which affected their ability to identify risks related to underlying vulnerabilities in Iraq and Syria.

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