The never-told-before story of the meeting that led to the creation of ISIS, as explained by an Islamic State insider.
He admired the foreign fighters whom he knew, mainly young men from Belgium and the Netherlands who had traveled to Syria to fight jihad. They had all lived in rich and peaceful countries, and while tens of thousands of Syrians had paid large sums of money to be smuggled to Europe to escape the war, these jihadis voluntarily traveled in the exact opposite direction.
.. Abu Ahmad would soon sour on aspects of the jihadi group. First, the Islamic State has not brought jihadis together; on the contrary, tensions have risen with other groups
.. Secondly, while some of the foreign fighters were men who led truly religious lives in Europe, he discovered another group that he took to thinking of as the “crazies.” These were mostly young Belgian and Dutch criminals of Moroccan descent, unemployed and from broken homes, who lived marginal lives in marginal suburbs of marginal cities. Most of these crazies had no idea about religion, and hardly any of them ever read the Quran. To them, fighting in Syria was either an adventure or a way to repent for their “sinful lives” in Europe’s bars and discos.
.. Since 2010, Baghdadi had been the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al Qaeda’s affiliate in that war-torn country.
.. most of them had sworn allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s chosen successor and the leader of al Qaeda. How could they suddenly abandon Zawahiri and al Qaeda and switch to Baghdadi?
.. Baghdadi told them that he had indeed pledged allegiance, but hadn’t declared it publicly, per Zawahiri’s request. But Baghdadi assured the men that he was acting under the command of the al Qaeda leader.
The jihadi leaders had no way to check if this claim was true. Zawahiri was perhaps the most difficult person in the world to contact — he had not been seen in public in years, and is still in hiding, most probably somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
.. But by creating a state, the jihadi leaders argued during the meeting, it would be extremely easy for the enemy to find and attack them. A state with a defined territory and institutions was a sitting duck.
.. One by one they stood in front of Baghdadi, shaking his hand and repeating the following words: “I pledge my allegiance to the Emir of the Faithful, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Qurashi, for compliance and obedience, in vigor and impulsion, abjectness and abundance, and in favoring his preference to mine, and not contending the orders of his trustees, unless I witness manifest disbelief.”
.. Everywhere in northern Syria, ISIS seized Nusra headquarters, ammunition caches, and weapons stores. Amazingly, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria was suddenly fighting for its existence. A new age had begun — the age of the Islamic State.