Hunting the Caliphate: America’s War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell

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See America’s campaign against ISIS through the eyes of the men on the ground.

In this vivid first-person narrative, Hunting the Caliphate, a Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) and his commanding general give fascinating and detailed accounts of America’s fight against one of the most barbaric insurgencies the world has ever seen.

In the summer of 2014, three years after America’s full troop withdrawal from the Iraq War, President Barack Obama authorized a small task force to push back into Baghdad. Their mission: Protect the Iraqi capital and U.S. embassy from a rapidly emerging terrorist threat. 

A plague of brutality, that would come to be known as ISIS, had created a foothold in northwest Iraq and northeast Syria. It had declared itself a Caliphate—an independent nation-state administered by an extreme and cruel form of Islamic law—and was spreading like a newly evolved virus. Soon, a massive and devastating U.S. military response had unfolded.

Hunting the Caliphate: America’s War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell is the ground truth on the senior military and political interactions that shaped America’s war against ISIS, a war unprecedented in both its methodology and its application of modern military technology. Enter the world of the Strike Cell, secretive operations centers where America’s greatest enemies are hunted and killed day and night. Plunge into the realm of the Special Operations JTAC, American warfighters with the highest enemy kill counts on the battlefield. And gain the wisdom of a cumulative half-century of military experience as Dana Pittard and Wes Bryant lay out the path to a sustained victory over ISIS. 

Editorial Reviews


“In describing a campaign that has been treated so far mostly from the top down and from a broad strategic perspective, Dana Pittard and Wes Bryant have provided us, for the first time, a detailed account of our most recent war against ISIS as they experienced it as assigned insiders from the ground up. They are unabashed in venting their frustration over the constraints imposed by Washington…. Most important, however, they effectively capture how the synergistic blend of precision U.S. and coalition air power, courageous and committed Iraqi and Syrian anti-ISIS foot soldiers, and supporting U.S. special operations teams and forward air controllers ultimately crushed the scourge of ISIS on the battlefield without any need to commit large numbers of American ground troops to the fight.”

Benjamin S. Lambeth
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
Author of The Unseen War: Allied Air Power and the Takedown of Saddam Hussein

“Authors Dana Pittard and Wes Bryant do an outstanding job of illuminating all of the ins and outs of the war against ISIS in their new book Hunting the Caliphate: America’s War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell. Written from the wartime perspectives of a general officer in Pittard, and a JTAC, Wes Bryant, I thoroughly enjoyed and was enthralled in the way they traded off chapters to give their perspective on the events occurring during a major conflict. Their synopses, timelines and minute details captured me and my attention from the onset. Having deployed to the region a few times during my 25-year USAF career, I can attest to the accuracy of events portrayed in the book and appreciate their time and effort in bringing our war operation against ISIS to light. This book is written for all; however, it is a must read for any veteran who has served, especially those who have served in the past 20 years.”

Lieutenant Colonel Ken Murray (USAF Ret.)
Author of On Parr: The Stunning Combat Missions of American Fighter Ace, Colonel Ralph Parr

“With the complementary insights of a general and his senior enlisted man, along with an insider’s eye for detail and an unshakeable belief in their mission, Pittard and Bryant expertly pull back the curtain on the front line fight against ISIS. From Iraq to Afghanistan and Syria, Pittard and Bryant describe the development of a devastating air campaign waged from a distance, where rapid life or death decisions must be made with limited information and murky rules of engagement, and where ultimate success hinges on coordination between a stateof-the-art operations center with a small group of highly trained Americans led by Pittard and Bryant, and their indigenous allies battling ISIS on the ground. Eye-opening, candid, and at times deeply human, Hunting the Caliphate is a must read for understanding a new kind of war told by two men who not only fought that war, but helped define it.”

David Broyles
Former USAF Pararescueman (PJ)
Co-creator of History Channel’s combat drama SIX

“From mass executions to pinpoint air strikes, political and military frustrations and the politics of coalition warfare, Hunting the Caliphate is a compelling blend of military history and first-person memories of the war against terror–the complex battlefield, the joys of victory, the tragedy of loss, and the sacrifice of the men and women who carried out the mission. An insider account from a senior Army ground commander and a front line battlefield airman, the book is a gritty, compelling read for all who hope to understand America’s longest war.”

Deborah Lee James, 23rd Secretary of the Air Force
Author of Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success

“Simply excellent. Hunting the Caliphate is the first account to give sustained insights into the events and personalities shaping the war on ISIS that academics and journalists have been unable to capture except in snapshots. Effectively written, and with editing nothing short of first-rate, it is a descriptive and gripping narrative from two contrasting yet intersecting perspectives that offers readers a broader view of the US military campaign against ISIS. As a historian of modern combat operations, I applaud the insightful observations appearing throughout that serve to accurately convey an important history–and dispel its myths.”

Mark J. Reardon
Senior Historian, US Army Center of Military History

About the Author

Hunting the Caliphate By Dana Pittard
Hunting the Caliphate: America’s War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell By Dana Pittard

Dana J. H. Pittard retired from the U.S. Army in 2015 at the rank of Major General after 34 years of active duty service. He was a highly decorated combat leader and commanded units at every echelon from platoon to division, including multiple combat tours in Iraq and the Middle East. In 2014, he was picked to lead the initial U.S. response to halt the aggressive spread of ISIS in Iraq. Dana, a West Point graduate and Harvard fellow, is a vice president with a manufacturing company in Indiana. He currently lives with his wife Lucille in the Indianapolis area.

Hunting the Caliphate: America’s War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell By Wes Bryant

Wes Bryant is a former Special Operations Forces Tactical Air Control Party – Joint Terminal Attack Controller (SOF TACP – JTAC), a member of the elite ground combat forces of the U.S. Air Force who serve as combat airpower specialists for America’s special operations units. In 2014, as the senior enlisted JTAC to establish the Baghdad Strike Cell, he coordinated and controlled some of the first airstrikes of America’s war on ISIS. Later, he was the senior airpower expert for special operations task forces hunting ISIS throughout Syria and Afghanistan until his retirement in 2018. Wes holds a Bachelor’s in Asian Studies and currently pursues writing, editing, and consulting while teaching traditional Kung Fu. He lives with his wife and daughters in North Carolina.

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