The Life of Abd al-Rahman: The Pipeline of Newer Lebanese Recruits to the Islamic State
While the phenomenon of foreign fighters making their way to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq declined dramatically as the group lost control of territory on the border with Turkey in the period 2015-2017, there was a notable wave in recent years of recruits from Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli who ended up being killed fighting for the group in Iraq. This wave of recruits received coverage in a number of media outlets, and conventional explanations tended to highlight the city’s impoverishment and the supposed marginalisation of Sunnis. The reliance on these conventional explanations was challenged (with some justification) as overly simplistic and sweeping in a Century Foundation analysis published in November 2022.
This week’s issue of al-Naba’ contains, to my knowledge, the first biography published by the group of a person who was part of this wave of Lebanese recruits. His name is given as Abd al-Rahman Musa al-Qarhani (aka Abu Ahmad al-Lubnani). His year of birth is given as 1995-1996 CE and according to the biography he arrived in Iraq in 2020-2021 CE, most notably serving as a camp instructor and then in one of the group’s military units in Anbar. The biography claims he was killed in fighting a joint American-Iraqi operation against an Islamic State camp.
While the biography should be treated with caution as a work of hagiography, it contains some credible details that suggest a narrative simply focusing on poverty and perceived Sunni marginalisation is reductive.