Top positive review
Best Analysis Yet Written on the Islamic State and the Crisis in Iraq
Reviewed in the United States on February 22, 2016
Blood Year stands out amongst the burgeoning literature on both the Iraq War (2003-2011) and the ISIS threat (2014-onward) for its insightfulness on the road that led to the current juncture and its ability to provide relevant guidance without bogging down in heavy academic writing.
First and foremost, Blood Year is a 'mea culpa' from a policy insider who, as much as any other single figure, helped craft US counterterrorism policy from 2005 onward. Kilcullen's "Disaggregation Theory" served as a critical corrective to US policy which had up until its formulation sought to tie the world's jihadists together under the single umbrella of terrorist, magnifying the threat rather than diminishing or defeating it. Yet as Kilcullen is the first to admit, this strategic framework also served to focus the US too closely on Al-Qaeda Central in Pakistan (especially after the start of the Obama Administration in 2009), and ignored the rise of al-Qaeda's erstwhile junior affiliate in Iraq. This, combined with the US invasion of Iraq (which Kilcullen describes as the worst strategic blunder since Hitler's 1940 invasion of the USSR) set the stage for disaster. Kilcullen goes on to chronicle how, with US forces out of Iraq and no longer applying pressure to Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki to maintain an inclusive government, Iraq began a swift descent into sectarian civil war, as well as the rise of ISIS from the remnants of Al-Qaeda in Iraq combined with former Ba'athist officers and Sunni tribes disenfranchised by Maliki's increasingly pro-Shi'a policies.
The result is a swift, incisive read that stands out as the best yet written on the rise of ISIS.