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​Hassan Akbar, only twenty-nine years of age, had nearly captured Kobani just days before. Shirazi thought he made the cogent tactical decision. More personnel losses by precision guided missiles such as the GBU 38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) were no longer acceptable, despite the cause.  

“What can we do to support the resumption of operations in Kobani?” asked Shirazi.

“I need three hundred more fighters from the Aleppo region. Allah willing that should be enough for a victory,” said Akbar.

Shirazi knew redeploying these fighters would burden strategic efforts near Aleppo. Nidal’s proposal was undesirable.    

Shirazi, and everyone else in the room, recognized the tremendous capabilities of western forces; particularly drones. Not only were these flying “machines of death” capable of destroying his forces on the ground, their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities meant it was nearly impossible to move or communicate without detection.  

However, his forces could disperse within the local population and communicate through couriers. Detection was then nearly impossible assuming support existed.

“Can we spare three hundred fighters from Aleppo?” asked Shirazi as he turned to one of his top leaders.

Nidal Qureshy, one of Shirazi’s fiercest and senior commanders, only replied, “We cannot.”

Nidal’s tone and demeanor angered Hassan who could do nothing but listen. His leader was in charge, and any unwarranted input would simply be ill prudent.

“If we divide our forces, the Syrian regime will see an opportunity to stage more aggressive counter attacks. We cannot afford to lose the revenue and support within Aleppo,” added Nidal. 

Shirazi knew this was intolerable and turned to Hassan.

“We need other options. I expect them at the next council meeting.”

Hassan stared toward Nidal and showed his displeasure. His penetrating eyes said so, and a discussion with the senior commander would come later.

The council then proceeded to update Shirazi on all sorts of topics including public administration, propaganda operations in Europe and North America, and recruiting efforts. Council participants provided a brief summary due to time considerations.    

The Sahel and Maghreb regions in Africa received particular attention where rampant poverty and lack of government control provided greater opportunities for recruitment. The caliphate needed funding and motivated individuals willing to give their lives in support of the Caliph. Expansion gained from eighteen months of brutal fighting throughout Iraq and Syria could not stall.   

A spectacular attack was necessary, thought Shirazi to himself. His mind wandered for the rest of the meeting.      

Soon after short discussions of oil production, the council concluded its thirty-minute meeting. Meetings such as these were routine but kept to a minimum due to such a gathering of key leaders. Despite meeting mostly in Mosques and other holy places, they were risky to the senior leadership and just one successful precision air strike, gained from real-time intelligence, could wipe out the council completely. The only men remaining in the room were Shirazi, his two personal armed guards, and leader of the intelligence council.

Shirazi turned to his senior intelligence officer, a wicked and former advisor to the late President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein.

“A spectacular attack against our enemies must be planned and executed soon.”

The intelligence officer, who Shirazi trusted implicitly, simply nodded and spoke softly.

“I will have something for you in a day or two, Caliph. An attack no one has ever attempted nor will anyone expect it. If successful, it will bring our enemies to their knees and crush their will to oppose the Caliphate.” The man would not disappoint his commander. Events thousands of miles elsewhere prompted the imagination of the spymaster and ruthless killer.