'If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat' 
– Sun Tzu

This series of three articles published by Foreign Policy  tell the story of Abu Ahmad, a Syrian operative for the Islamic State who witnessed the group's lightning expansion firsthand and spent months among its most notorious foreign fighters. Ahmad provides a unique insight into how Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi's political scheming paved the way for its expansion into Syria, al Qaeda's efforts to stem the group's rise, and the terrifying weapons in the arsenal of the self-proclaimed 'caliphate'.