U.S. training helped mold top Islamic State military commander

U.S. training helped mold top Islamic State military commander

“In 2012, everyone was coming to Syria and we had too much work leading all kinds of people across the border,” he explained over lunch in Killis, a Turkish town just a few miles from the rebel-held Syrian city of Azzaz. “A lot were Muslims who had come to support the revolution against Bashar Assad from every country. So many from Europe, Russia, Germany, France….”

The 15 men had reached Abdullah through a network of contacts that were funneling new fighters to northern Syria, and Abdullah recalled they said they were going to Syria to assist in the fight against Assad. They were quiet, disciplined and for the most part spoke only a bit of crude formal Arabic.

Only later did Abdullah realize that the network that funneled these men to him was the beginnings of the Islamic State, and that one of the 15 would turn out to be the most important non-Arab figure in the Islamic State hierarchy, a former American-trained noncommissioned officer in the special forces of the nation of Georgia, who’d led his men heroically during the 2008 Russian invasion of his homeland.

Only later did Abdullah realize that the network that funneled these men to him was the beginnings of the Islamic State, and that one of the 15 would turn out to be the most important non-Arab figure in the Islamic State hierarchy, a former American-trained noncommissioned officer in the special forces of the nation of Georgia, who’d led his men heroically during the 2008 Russian invasion of his homeland.

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