Aspiring jihadists looking to join the Islamic State army are often lured to the front lines with promises of changing the course of history and reclaiming a lost Islamic empire.

But at least for the less-skilled foreign recruits, the experience of fighting for the new caliphate is often brief and bloody. Kurdish and Iraqi commanders on the front lines of the war whom I interviewed in the last two weeks say that the suicide bombers and first-wave attackers deployed in Islamic State offensives are almost entirely made up of units of foreign fighters.

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