the master plan

ISIS, al qaeda, and the
jihadi strategy for final victory

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 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

About the Book

Given how quickly its operations have achieved global impact, it may seem that the Islamic State materialized suddenly. But in early 2005 al-Qaeda’s security chief, Sayf al-Adl, described a seven-stage plan for jihadis to conquer the world, including calling for the resurrection of the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria between 2013 and 2016. This was to be followed by a campaign of global violence that would teach the world “the meaning of real terrorism” and would culminate in a jihadi “Final Victory” in 2020. The rough blueprint for the Islamic State's reign of terror was drafted a decade before the "Caliphate" was finally established in 2014. 

Drawing on revolutionary declassified data from inside al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, The Master Plan: ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory describes the Islamic State’s development over the life of al-Adl’s plan. The findings show that al-Adl’s vision has proved remarkably accurate, but his blueprint has not been followed precisely—and the discrepancies have led to a history of antagonism between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State’s progenitors.

That animosity bubbled into outright warfare in 2013, but it has raged more quietly for more than a decade. Using sources that jihadis hoped would never be public, The Master Plan looks inside the battles among jihadis that allowed the Islamic State, with its particularly bloody vision of jihad, to seize control of the global jihadi movement from al-Qaeda. From al-Qaeda’s battles with other jihadis before 9/11 that empowered the Godfather of the Islamic State all the way through al-Qaeda's failed effort to strong-arm its would-be ally in Iraq and the Islamic State's strategy to outlast the Awakening and Surge in Iraq, The Master Plan tells the inside story on how the Islamic State metastasized into a global threat.

Al-Adl’s master plan predicted many of the events roiling the world today—from the declaration of the Caliphate to the unprecedented campaign of global terrorism, and even the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. The Islamic State’s leaders did not always knowingly abide al-Adl’s vision, but they have fulfilled much of it. It would be a mistake to ignore al-Adl’s vision now, particularly because he predicted a jihadi “Final Victory” by 2020.  Only by understanding the Islamic State’s full history—and the strategy that drove it—can we ensure that al-Adl’s final vision is never achieved.