details how the U.S. invasion of Iraq contributed to the Sunni jihadist group's growth. The new Iraqi government disenfranchised Sunnis; ISIS honed its terrorist techniques fighting American troops; and the group's leader met his associates, including officers from the former Iraqi army, under U.S. detention. The repercussions of the invasion of Iraq in terms of regional instability and extremism continue:
As fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to seize territory, the group has quietly built an effective management structure of mostly middle-aged Iraqis overseeing departments of finance, arms, local governance, military operations and recruitment.
At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.
He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army.
They include former Iraqi officers like Fadel al-Hayali, the top deputy for Iraq, who once served Mr. Hussein as a lieutenant colonel, and Adnan al-Sweidawi, a former lieutenant colonel who now heads the group’s military council.
The pedigree of its leadership, outlined by an Iraqi who has seen documents seized by the Iraqi military, as well as by American intelligence officials, helps explain its battlefield successes: Its leaders augmented traditional military skill with terrorist techniques refined through years of fighting American troops, while also having deep local knowledge and contacts. ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army.
...Michael Knights, an Iraq analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it was no surprise that so many officers from Mr. Hussein’s era had joined ISIS. Discontent in the military was widespread near the end of his rule, and underground Islamist movements were gaining strength, even inside the military, he said.
Political changes after the American invasion accelerated their rise. Members of Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party were barred from government positions, and the political dominance of Iraq’s Shiite majority made many Sunnis feel disenfranchised.
“After 2003, what did these guys have to do but get more radical?” Mr. Knights said.
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