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The Combating Threats Exchange staff are happy to bring you the July 2019 issue of CTX.

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The Man Who Would Be King

In 1888, while living in Allahabad in British India, Rudyard Kipling published a novella titled “The Man Who Would be King.” The story, which was turned into a movie starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine, follows two former soldiers on their quest to become the rulers of Kafiristan (the province of Nuristan in modern-day Afghanistan). Their escapades raise issues that are still relevant to those charged with advising foreign militaries, and the film is one of two (the other is John Milius’s Farewell to the King) that are used as teaching tools in the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Military Advisor course..

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The Rise of ISIS in the Philippines and The Battle of Marawi

Since the 1990s, the Philippines has faced numerous threats from insurgent and terrorist organizations that have thrived in under-governed regions. Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines, has served as a safe haven for both indigenous and transnational terrorist groups, including al Qaeda (AQ), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and, most recently, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Beginning in 2014, several indigenous jihadist groups in Mindanao pledged the baya, or oath of allegiance, to ISIS, including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Ansar Khilafah Philippines (AKP), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and the Maute Group...

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Keeping All the Frogs in the Boil

After a long, tiring flight from cold and freezing Amsterdam to hot and sweaty Baghdad, I simply needed a place to sleep. Upon arriving at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Centre, the first thing I saw was a swimming pool full of coalition soldiers playing water volleyball, screaming and yelling for the ball and for attention from their buddies. I dropped my bags and sat down in the shade near the pool for a moment to observe. It looked like these guys were having fun, but I also saw lots of miscommunication and misunderstanding during their game. I was reminded of a small canal full of croaking frogs back home in the Netherlands: each player was eager to get the others’ attention by making as much noise as possible, but they did so with absolutely no plan or structure.

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I’ve been haunted recently by one scene in the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody. In it, a young Farrokh (Freddie) Bulsara announces, during a dinner with family and friends at his parents’ modest home, that he has legally changed his surname to Mercury. Everyone at the table is stunned. In the argument that follows, Freddie’s father rebukes Freddie’s rock star ambitions with one of the old man’s favorite sayings, a Zoroastrian precept that one should live a life in the practice of “good words, good thoughts, and good deeds.” To which Freddie dismissively replies, “And how’s that worked out for you?” The question is rhetorical. In Freddie’s mind, the precept’s advice hasn’t worked out for his father at all. Instead, Freddie’s reply is intended as a rejection of the father’s pious nature, his modest achievements, the family’s humble home, and the moral principles that have guided the father’s life. Freddie, as the film makes clear, wants more, and after betraying the love of his fiance, the friendship of his band mates, and the loyalty of his agent, he achieves it, including eventually a mansion in which each of his cats has its own spacious room...

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Hitler’s Brandenburgers: The Third Reich’s Elite Special Forces provides a comprehensive view of this unique World War II German special forces unit. Author and military historian Lawrence Paterson succeeds in demystifying the history oft his unit in a well-structured manner, and provides fascinating detail about the unit’s key operations.Paterson begins the story of the Branden burgers by highlighting the characters who were responsible for creating this unusual and profoundly successful band of men. 

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These recent JSOU Press publications are available electronically in the JSOU Library Management System in the JSOU Press Publications 2019 section:

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This journal is not an official DoD publication. The views expressed or implied within are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any governmental or nongovernmental organization or agency of the United States of America or any other country.


Copyright © 2023 by the author(s), except where otherwise noted. The Combating Threats Exchange journal (CTX) is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal available free of charge to individuals and institutions. Copies of this journal and the articles contained herein may be printed or downloaded and redistributed for personal, research, or educational purposes free of charge and without permission, except if otherwise noted. Any commercial use of CTX or the articles published herein is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the copyright holder. The copyright of all articles published herein rests with the author(s) of the article, unless otherwise noted.


  • SALLY BAHO, Copy Editor
  • LAYOUT AND DESIGN, Graduate Education Advancement Center, Naval Postgraduate School


  • VICTOR ASAL, University of Albany SUNY
  • CHRIS HARMON, Marine Corps University
  • TROELS HENNINGSEN, Royal Danish Defense College
  • PETER MCCABE, Joint Special Operations University
  • RAJAN RAVINDRAN, Indian Army (Ret.)
  • IAN C. RICE, US Army (Ret.)
  • ANNA SIMONS, Naval Postgraduate School
  • SHYAMSUNDER TEKWANI, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies
  • CRAIG WHITESIDE, Naval War College


  • AMINA KATOR-MUBAREZ, Naval Postgraduate School