The Islamic State originated from Iraq in the year 2013. It is an insurgent, religious, and territory-controlling organization. The ideologies and affiliations of the organization are Islamist, takfiri, Salafist, pan-Islamist, and jihadist. The Islamic State was founded by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and has established its operations in places all over the world. Some of the Wilayas (provinces) that the Islamic State considers its territories include Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, and North Caucasus. The organization also attracts a significant amount of sympathy from countries such as Bangladesh, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Palestine, and Indonesia. We have a loyal following of attackers, some of whom have conducted attacks as lone-wolves in non-sympathizing countries like Belgium and France. Our losses of territory between 2014 and 2015 led to massive losses of income but the organization makes up for such losses through the oil industry, human trafficking, robberies, and extortion. We have experienced setbacks in our operations in recent times but the organization is far from its demise.
Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi is the commander of ISIS. He was proclaimed caliph by the group in June 2014 (McCants and McCants, 2015). There are two chief deputies beneath him whose roles are to oversee our Syria and Iraq territories. The executive branch of ISIS, otherwise known as "Al Imara," is comprised of Baghdadi, his deputies, and the cabinet. The legislative council also falls immediately below Baghdadi but is not included in the executive council. The Shura Council, comprising of nine members is tasked with making sure that the lower councils stick to the religious doctrine of ISIS. Its other duty includes relaying the orders of Baghdadi to all members of the organization.
ISIS also has a Shariah Council made up of 6 members (McCants and McCants, 2015). This is the most powerful body in the organization. Its responsibility includes interpreting Islamic law within the organization's territories and choosing the caliph. When we acquire new territory, this council's task includes the creation of Sharia courts and police force that will enforce the interpreted laws within the territory. Some of the councils that oversee the daily routines of the organization include the Military Council, Financial Council, Leadership Council, Legal Council, the Security Council, and Intelligence Council.
As of 2014, we had taken control of more than 40% of Iraq (Byman, 2016). There were ongoing efforts by the United States in unison with the Iraqi forces to drive us away from the capital of Raqqa between 2014 and 2017. In October 2017, Syria forces backed by American forces announced that they had gained control and liberated Raqqa. More than 270, 000 people were displaced during the fight that led to the liberation. On the other hand, our base in Iraq, known as Rawa, had also been captured leading to the almost total collapse of the Islamic State.
Some of our territories outside Syria and Iraq include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan pledged their loyalty to the group in 2014 and their acceptance was made official in January 2015 (Byman, 2016). Most of the other territories were also accepted as part of the organization between the period 2014 and 2016.
Logistics and Operational Requirements
Recruitment and Training
We conduct recruitment practices through a variety of platforms. Since ISIS's formation, we have conducted online media campaigns with the objective of recruiting international members. The media campaign was planned efficiently before the launching of ISIS (Hashim, 2014). Some of the media recruitment methods we use include online magazines, social media interactions, and production of slick videos.
Our media center takes care of all the recruitment and marketing efforts of the group. It releases propaganda materials on behalf of the numerous provinces of the group. The main aim of this center is to transmit messages from ISIS in various languages with the intention of bringing all Muslims together under the same flag. Apart from fighters, ISIS also seeks to recruit engineers, accountants, doctors, and wives.
Social media has been an important platform for our recruitment activities. We have used social media to notify interested individuals about the processes they need to undertake to become members of the group. Such social media platforms include Tumblr, Askbook, Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter (Hashim, 2014). Instant messaging platforms have also become a trend with WhatsApp and Telegram being the popular services in use. We take all measures to ensure that the recruit is committed to the cause including conducting video calls to see the face of the person. We use the same platform to keep in touch with jihadists in countries when there is a need to conduct individual attacks. To avoid detection during such communication, we make use of encryption software.
There are numerous reasons why individuals seek to join ISIS. Some of them join in a quest to have significance in the society and be respected (Stern and Berger, 2015). There are also people who are on a mission to make a mark after many years of suffering while others join simply because of the thrill and fresh identity. Our recruiters take advantage of the grievances of Muslims who claim to be mistreated and exploited by the West. They paint the options of the recruit in black and white, that is, either join or continue living in a state of victimization.
On the ground, the recruiters are mostly fighters, jihadists, or preachers. They operate mostly in Canada, America, and European cities (Stern and Berger, 2015). They conduct the recruitment exercise in mosques, private homes, gyms, restaurants, and cafes. Individuals who agree on their condition will have access to logistical support that will facilitate their immigration to the Islamic State.
As ISIS soldiers, we undergo both physical and ideological training. When it comes to religious training, we are taught the basics of religion that will cleanse us from all forms of Ba'athist ideas and religious innovations. The physical training exercises include live-fire training, combat exercises, and weapons training (Hashim, 2014). The recruiters also put the new recruits into intensive physical exercises such as celestial navigation, aquatic training, crawling, push-ups, jumping, and running.
Shortage of skills such as piloting has necessitated the Islamic State to capture Syrian Pilots and force them to train us using aircraft that was stolen during wars. In the year 2014, three military aircraft were in our possession with our fighters being the pilots flying over captured military bases.
As of 2014, ISIS was the wealthiest terrorist group in the world. Our assets were estimated at $1.5-2 billion, and an approximate income of #3 million per day (Istrabadi, 2018). The annual revenue from various sources at the time was $2.9 billion. Since then, there have been military setbacks, territory losses, and coalition strikes that have diminished the organization's income significantly. As of June 2017, the group had lost more than 80% of its annual revenue. These losses necessitated the group to cut our wages by 50%.
Before these losses, we had gained control of expansive oil fields in northern Iraq and eastern Syria which were also our strongholds. We used trucks to smuggle crude oil to ISIS sympathizers, the Syrian government, and the Turkish government in exchange for refined petroleum and cash (Istrabadi, 2018). Important infrastructure projects such as power plants and factories within our territory also became a target as we expanded our sources of finance. In most circumstances, the energy assets under our control were faced by needs of maintenance, but this was handled by engineers on the site. Additionally, we have always found a reliable source of financing from the numerous sympathizer groups and the sale of antiquities obtained from our territories.
Acquisition of Weapons
We acquire a majority of our Weapons from Europe, Russia, and China (Rivin and Seaton, 2018). The weapons were delivered in the region during the civil war in Syria with the intention of supplying either the Syrian troops or Opposition forces. We also acquired weapons from stocks in regions under conflict. We managed to create a constant and efficient supply of weapons despite being alienated from the outside world through from all sides.
With the continuous conflict in parts of Africa and the Middle East, there are expectations that the weapons supply chain will continue being important for us in the coming years (Rivin and Seaton, 2018). Our established weapon suppliers are not the states and companies that manufacture weapons but government entities with lawful access to weapons. These government entities divert the weapons from the available stock and distribute them to illegal entities hence they find their way into ISIS. Most of these sources are found within countries that are marked as ISIS territories but some weapons can also be acquired from non-territorial sources.
Overall, it is clear that ISIS has significant power and will regain its foothold when an opportunity arises despite its recent setbacks. Our organizational structure enables us to operate like any government or international corporation. We are led by the commander Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi who has overseen the group's success since its inception in 2014. We have a legislative and executive arm as well as councils with specified roles. As of 2014, the group controlled at least 40% of Iraq. It had also captured parts of Iraq and Syria. Its operational bases in the two countries were Rawa and Raqqa respectively. However, our control of the two territories has since diminished due to the intervention of U.S-backed forces from Iraq and Syria. We conduct both on-the-ground recruitment and social media recruitments. The interested individuals go through intensive scrutiny before being admitted as recruits. After recruitment, they undergo physical and ideological training to ensure that they are ready for battle and do not stray from the beliefs of the group. ISIS was the wealthiest terrorist organization globally as of 2014. We obtained finances from the oil fields under our control as well as donations among other sources. We used these finances to acquire weapons from government entities that have legal access to ammunition stocks. We also obtained other ammunitions from conflicted regions around the world such as Libya. I believe the group has significant power hence it will expand its territories despite being suppressed in its major operational bases.
Byman, D. (2016). ISIS Goes Global: Fight the Islamic State by Targeting Its Affiliates. Foreign Aff., 95, 76.
Hashim, A. S. (2014). The Islamic State: From alQaeda Affiliate to Caliphate. Middle East Policy, 21(4), 69-83.
Istrabadi, F. A. (2018). The Future of ISIS: Regional and International Implications. Brookings Institution Press.
McCants, W., & McCants, W. F. (2015). The ISIS apocalypse: The history, strategy, and doomsday vision of the Islamic State. Macmillan.
Rivin, I., & Seaton, A. (2018). An Analysis of a War.
Stern, J., & Berger, J. M. (2015). ISIS: The state of terror (Vol. 7). London: William collins.
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