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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $39.99

336 pp.
156 mm x 234 mm


Publication date:
May 2019

Imprint: OUP US

Road Warriors

Foreign Fighters in the Armies of Jihad

Daniel Byman

In Road Warriors, terrorism expert Daniel Byman traces the history of the jihadist foreign fighter movement. Through the biographies of key figures and histories of the groups, Byman chronicles the movement's birth in Afghanistan, growing pains in Bosnia and Chechnya, and emergence as a major terrorism scourge behind not only 9/11, but also attacks in Paris, Madrid, and beyond.

He details the foreign fighters' role in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. overthrow of Saddam's regime and the impact of their mistakes. Foreign fighters reached their apogee in Syria during the nation's civil war, effectively combatting the Assad regime, the United States, and other foes on behalf of the Islamic State, one of the deadliest terrorist groups the world has known. Some fighters died in the first conflict zone they entered, while others became professional fighters, going from one war to the next. Still others sought to return home, some to peaceful retirement but a deadly few to conduct terrorist attacks.

Both the United States and Europe have suffered and adapted as foreign fighter movements have evolved. Before 9/11, volunteers were able to go to and fro to Afghanistan and other hotspots with little interference. Today, the United States and its allies have developed a global program to identify, arrest, and kill foreign fighters. Much remains to be done, however - jihadist ideas and networks are by now deeply embedded, even as groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State rise and fall.

Readership : Americans and Europeans interested in terrorism studies, U.S. military and intelligence community.

Part I: Why Do Foreign Fighters Matter?
Key Arguments
Looking for Jihad1. Why do they fight?
2. What do foreign fighters offer a local militant group?
3. Why do foreign fighters often prove disastrous?
4. What is the role of the state?
5. What happens after fighters return?
6. How can counterterrorism be improved?
Book Structure
Part II: The Prophet: Abdullah Azzam and the Anti-Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan
Jihad and the Rifle Alone
The Afghanistan Jihad
Azzam the Organizer
State Support?
Azzam's End
Enter Al Qaeda
When the Jihad Ends
Warnings Unheeded
Part III: Barbaros: The Red Beard
Looking for Jihad
Inspired to Fight
Hearing the Call
A Mixed Reaction in Bosnia
An Abrupt End
Part IV: The Trainer: Ali Mohammad and Afghanistan in the 1990s
Jihad at a Crossroads
Why Did Fighters Go to Afghanistan?
Getting There
What Did Fighters Learn in the Camps?
Tensions in the Ranks
The Weak Response
The 9/11 Disaster
Afghanistan after 9/11
Part V: Chechnya and the Sword of Islam
Russian Dogs
The First Chechen War
Enter the Jihadists: Khattab and Basaev
The Interim: Exploiting the Vacuum
Part VI: Hubris and Nemesis: The Chechen Foreign Fighters Overreach
Russia Exploits the Foreign Fighter Presence
Chechnya after Khattab
Part VII: The Slaughterer: Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi and Ascendant Iraqi Jihad (2003-2006)
Sowing the Wind in Iraq
The City of Mosques
A Magnet for Foreigners
Who Went to Iraq and How Did They Get There?
Zarqawi's End
Part VIII: The Dreamer: Abu Ayyub al-Masri and the Self-Destruction of the Iraqi Jihad
Reaping the Whirlwind
The Tide Turns
A Defeat for the Cause
Part IX: The Gadfly: Omar Hammami
Jihadism Emerges in Somalia
The Rise of the Shebaab
The Frustrations of Jihad
The Shebaab's High Water Mark - A Mini Islamic State
Hammami's Fall
The Shebaab as a Terrorist Group
Foreigners Fighting the Shebaab
The Shebaab Settles in for a Long War
Part X: John the Beatle and the Syrian Civil War
The Rise of the Islamic State
The Appeal of Jihad in Syria
Propaganda, Social Media and Recruitment
A Five-Star Jihad
The Turkish Highway
Training Camps and Hard Fighting
Life in the Islamic State
The Terrorism Threat
Leaving the Islamic State
The Western Response
Part XI: The Facilitator: Amer Azizi and the Rise of Jihadist Terrorism in Europe
The Origins of the Europe as a Jihadist Battlefield
Jihadism in Europe post-9/11
The Islamic State in Europe
Jihad Returns to Europe
The European Response to Foreign Fighters
Part XII: America Squares Off against the Legion
Who Are the American Foreign Fighters?
The Limits of the Internet
Attacks in America
Stopping American Foreign Fighters
Law Enforcement
Military Operations
Intelligence Operations
What's Next?
Part XIII: How to Stop Foreign Fighters
Halting the Foreign Fighter Production Process
The Decision Stage
The Travel Stage
Training and Fighting in the War Zone
The Return Stage
Thinking Beyond the Plot Stage

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Daniel Byman is a Professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of A High Price, The Five Front War, and Al Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Global Jihadist Movement: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Special Features

  • The definitive work on jihadists who fight in foreign lands by one of the world's leading experts.
  • Examines not only well-known stories (like the rise of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda) but also vital, under-examined episodes from Chechnya and Somalia.
  • Draws on court records, jihadist memoirs, captured documents, and interviews to offer a critical perspective on how to respond to foreign fighter movements.