How Is­lamic State ji­hadists op­er­ate

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BAGH­DAD: The Is­lamic State ji­hadist group, which holds large ar­eas in Iraq and Syria and has af­fil­i­ates and op­er­a­tives in other coun­tries, claimed at­tacks in Paris that killed 129 peo­ple. But how does IS func­tion, and who calls the shots?

Who’s in charge?

The group is headed by Abu Bakr AlBagh­dadi, who rules over a self-de­clared Is­lamic “caliphate”, but mil­i­tary and ad­min­is­tra­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are dif­fused to low­er­level of­fi­cials as well. IS has var­i­ous de­part­ments re­spon­si­ble for is­sues such as ed­u­ca­tion and ser­vices, and there are also se­cu­rity com­man­ders for spe­cific ge­o­graphic re­gions. “In the grand scheme of things Bagh­dadi seems to be an im­por­tant fig­ure in de­ci­sion­mak­ing,” said ji­hadism ex­pert Ay­menn AlTamimi. “How­ever, I think as with any gov­ern­ment there is some au­ton­omy in de­ci­sion­mak­ing granted to more lo­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of IS gov­ern­ment de­part­ments.”

Who or­ders at­tacks?

There is not yet any hard ev­i­dence that top lead­ers di­rectly or­dered the Paris at­tacks, and it is likely that Bagh­dadi dic­tates strate­gies while less se­nior com­man­ders and op­er­a­tives see to the ex­e­cu­tion. “We don’t have any ev­i­dence at the present time that the Paris at­tack was or­dered by the high­est ech­e­lons of the Is­lamic State,” Tamimi said. “Bagh­dadi likely does not mi­cro­man­age ev­ery at­tack that (IS) launches abroad. It is more likely that (IS) com­man­ders ex­e­cute cam­paigns ac­cord­ing to Bagh­dadi’s in­tent,” said Har­leen Gamb­hir, an an­a­lyst at the In­sti­tute for the Study of War. IS-linked “op­er­a­tives have at­tempted to at­tack Europe re­peat­edly this year. The Paris at­tacks sim­ply rep­re­sented a suc­cess in that ef­fort, rather than a unique event that would have re­quired spe­cial per­mis­sion from Bagh­dadi,” Gamb­hir said.

How are fight­ers re­cruited?

IS em­ploys a so­phis­ti­cated pro­pa­ganda ma­chine to pro­duce videos, pho­tos and state­ments about its ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing bru­tal pub­lic ex­e­cu­tions, help­ing it at­tract re­cruits. A large num­ber of supporters dis­sem­i­nate this ma­te­rial on­line. But for an op­er­a­tion like Paris, hav­ing op­er­a­tives with con­nec­tions in Europe is key. IS “likely chose to use Euro­pean for­eign fight­ers to launch the Paris at­tacks be­cause those fight­ers main­tain con­nec­tions to rad­i­cal and crim­i­nal net­works in their home coun­tries,” said Gamb­hir. “Th­ese net­works aid with the weapons pro­cure­ment and other lo­gis­tics re­quired for an op­er­a­tion like the Paris at­tacks,” she said.

How is IS fi­nanced?

In ter­ri­tory it con­trols in Iraq and Syria, IS fi­nances it­self through means in­clud­ing oil smug­gling, ex­tor­tion, kid­nap­ping for ran­som and sell­ing looted an­tiq­ui­ties. But ex­ter­nal oper­a­tions would largely be fi­nanced in­de­pen­dently, though they may still re­ceive some fund­ing from the cen­tral IS or­ga­ni­za­tion. IS “is a dif­fer­ent can of worms than AlQaeda tra­di­tion­ally has been,” said Matthew Le­vitt, a for­mer deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for in­tel­li­gence and anal­y­sis at the US Trea­sury Depart­ment who is now at the Wash­ing­ton In­sti­tute. This is be­cause it “con­trols a large swathe of ter­ri­tory, and is there­fore able to do ev­ery­thing from tax peo­ple, both lit­eral taxes and other taxes that we might think of more prop­erly as forms of ex­tor­tion, and all kinds of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,” Le­vitt said. But “the type of oper­a­tions we just saw in Paris are mostly go­ing to be in­de­pen­dently fi­nanced, largely through crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,”he said.—AFP

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