How Raqqa Became the Capital of ISIS: A Proxy Warfare Case Study

Author(s): Rosenblatt, Nate, Kilcullen, David


Syria’s northern city of Raqqa served as the seat of power for the Islamic State ofIraq and al-Sham (ISIS) for four years, marking it as the center of one of the mostbloody and complex proxy wars of the 21st century. During that time, multiple state sponsors, including Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States, lent support to armed groups seeking to wrest the ancient city from the Caliphate’s control. Yet, to understand the war against ISIS in Raqqa,one has to understand how ISIS came to control the city in the first place. In 2013,Raqqa changed hands three times: it was first controlled by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, then it became the first provincial capital captured by the Syrian opposition, and finally, it was seized by ISIS, which made it the capital of their short-lived Caliphate. This dramatic year illustrates key elements of the complexity of Syria’s ongoing proxy conflict. For futher reading please click

Published: 2019

Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism

Author(s): David Kilcullen


2014 has the potential to go down as a crucial year in modern world history. A resurgent and bellicose Russia took over Crimea and fueled a civil war in Eastern Ukraine. Post-Saddam Iraq, in many respects a creature of the United States because of the war that began in 2003, lost a third of its territory to an army of hyper-violent millennialists. The peace process in Israel seemed to completely collapse. Finally, after coalescing in Syria as a territorial entity, the Islamic State swept into northern Iraq and through northeastern Syria, attracting legions of recruits from Europe and the Middle East. In short, the post-Cold War security order that the US had constructed after 1991 seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

Published: 2016

Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla

Author(s): David Kilcullen


When Americans think of modern warfare, what comes to mind is the US army skirmishing with terrorists and insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan. But the face of global conflict is ever-changing. In Out of the Mountains, David Kilcullen, one of the world's leading experts on current and future conflict, offers a groundbreaking look at what may happen after today's wars end. This is a book about future conflicts and future cities, and about the challenges and opportunities that four powerful megatrends--population, urbanization, coastal settlement, and connectedness--are creating across the planet. And it is about what cities, communities and businesses can do to prepare for a future in which all aspects of human society--including, but not limited to, conflict, crime and violence--are changing at an unprecedented pace.

Published: 2013