How Can ISIS Continue Achieving its Slogan “Stay and Expand”


There have been many analyzes, opinions and discussions that are trying to answer the questions which still irks analysts and observers about the nature of the organization of the Islamic State “ISIS”, and the reason for its cohesion and the ability to achieve its slogan in staying and expansion, despite the existence of many parties which fighting the organization and trying to eliminate it, such as local factions and groups and the armies of regional and foreign countries that participate in the international coalition against this organization.

It seems that no one can give a comprehensive analysis or detailed facts to answer these questions at the moment, but the campaign of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” is still trying to gather information and data about the structure and mechanisms of action followed by the organization at each of political, military and administrative levels, through several local sources existing within the areas controlled by the organization.

This information express that the organization depends on dividing each region into several states, and the division of states in its turn into a set of sections, each section includes the Emirs (princes) of towns and villages. ISIS considered that each of these divisions is an independent shell or snail. We will take the state of Raqqa as an example in order to clarify this concept.

Solid Structure and Flexible Decentralization are the Secret of ISIS Staying

The Emir of Raqqa is the first official in the state, where he oversees the military and security actions waged by the organization within the boundaries of his state, in addition to the conduct of administrative and commercial matters relating to the management of daily life of citizens. Vice-Emir is the second person, which performs some duties and acts on behalf of the Emir in his absence.

Raqqa state is divided into four sectors, which is the city sector and each of eastern, western and northern sectors. Each of these sectors has an independent Emir, and there are many emirs of the cities that located within this sector. Each sector has a management structure similar to the administrative structure of the state. For example, Islamic Services Establishment in Tell Abiad subjected to the authority of the city governor directly, but it also follows the general department of the Islamic Services Establishment in the state of Raqqa.

ISIS thought that every city is a separate shell, each city should to carry out its functions and conduct its own affairs in isolation from other cities and regions. Every city has an emir responsible for the management and conduct of the related military and security affairs, as well as the conduct of the administrative and service matters.

The Emir conducts collecting taxes in order to cover the expenses required by his city. He also seeks to make his city contributes to the treasury of sector and the treasury of state, and then the House of Muslims Money (General Treasury).

On the other hand, Emir is responsible for increasing the number of members in the ranks of ISIS within his city, until he ensures a sufficient number of people who are able to manage the city. Then he begins to provide the organization with additional numbers of recruits to work in various fields.

Emir is responsible for the stability and sustainability of the organization in his area, and to maintain security through the members of the organization inside his city. In the case of exposure to a large risk, he must repair his shell by requesting reinforcements from the whole sector. Sector works as a larger shell and trying to help and repair within its borders. If the pressure is greater it should be turn to the larger shell, the state which must renovate itself by its own resources, and contribute to the support of other shells.

During the case of strategic risks and threats, the request of intervene must be to the Caliphate Army and other military forces which managed by the general military commander of the organization, who sends the elite forces or forces from other states towards the area that is under attack.

ISIS expands at the expense of weakness and dispersion of its opponents

When ISIS wants to expand to a new area, it resorts to create a shell in the nearest town of that region, and depends primarily on the residents of this region, through luring a local battalion or faction with money or power to swear allegiance to the organization, if it was possible. Or else, they resorts to send a number of members in order to work as a dormant cell in that region, where it starts to recruit and increase members and supporters, staying away from fighting other factions or any conduct which leads to weaken or involve it in an early conflict may result in the elimination of the new shell in the bud.

When ISIS strengthens its presence in the new area, it heads to bite off the weakest and most dialectic faction, which does not have a remarkable popular incubator in order to win the sympathy of the people in that region. Then they heads to end the presence of all other factions and groups in the region. After ISIS ends of cleansing its new shell of the other competitors, it begins to prepare for the new expansion through strengthening this shell and enhance its capabilities.

When ISIS reaches the desired situation which authorized the expansion in the region, they start the battle depending on the available capabilities of fighters, weapons and ammunition, they do not request only some specific heavy gear or some advisers and experienced leaders from neighboring shells. In the case of stumbling this attack, the shell will be provided with additional supplies and fighters, which is not favored by the organization because of fear of targeting these reinforcements by air force.

ISIS depends mainly on local fighters during its expansion operations, where they do not request the assistance of foreign fighters except in cases of extreme danger, in order to increase the effectiveness of the attacking troops or fortify the defending forces.

Therefore, ISIS enemies do not fight the organization itself, but they fight the nearest shell for them. In this way, large number of enemies do not affect the whole organization, because each shell works to create balances and alliances with some local and tribal factions and parties. Thus enemy for the organization in an area may not be an enemy in another place. This is the case for the relationship with Nusra Front, where ISIS fights it in several fronts and cooperates with it on other fronts.

Accordingly, every shell is responsible for confronting enemies in its surroundings, where adapts to repel the attacks in times of their strength, and prepares to expand during their weakness. In while ISIS enemies are not united, and each of them fights the organization separately without any coordination among themselves, so they do not fight together at one time, where there are fronts burning in while other fronts witness a kind of coldness and appeasement. This is what considers more beneficial to the organization in promoting its positions on the ground, and contributes to its continuity and ability to achieve its slogan in staying and expansion.

media activist from the city of Raqqa, student at the Faculty of Law at the University of the Euphrates. Director of the Media Office of Raqqa, founding member of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently", founding member of the documentary project of "Sound and Picture". I work in documenting violations committed by Assad's regime and ISIS group and extremist organizations inside the city of Raqqa, as I work in programming, design and visual media. I hold a certificate of coach in digital security, and a certificate of journalist coach, and a certificate in documenting violations against human rights, and a certificate in electronic advocacy. I underwent a training under the supervision of "Cyber-Arabs" in collaboration with the Institute for War and Peace "IWPR", about the management of electronic websites and leadership of advocacy campaigns, and a training of press photography under the supervision of the photojournalist "Peter Hove Olesen".