The Islamic State ‘Masterplan’ of Administration- Some Analytical Notes ~ Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, Dec 7, 2015.
The Guardian today has a huge story based on a ‘masterplan’ text I leaked to the paper entitled ‘Principles in the Administration of the Islamic State’. The text- likely written at some point between June and October 2014- concerns a variety of aspects of administration, including management of oil resources, composition of military ranks and propaganda. You can read the whole text, which I translated, here.
|Principles in the Administration of the Islamic State- the ‘masterplan’ text I leaked to the Guardian.|
The sign-off notably says that admin cadres are to receive instruction in administration according to the text. The question then arises of how far the Islamic State is actually following this administrative plan. Here are a few thoughts of my own:
1. The text calls for breaking down the differences between muhajireen (foreign fighters) and ansar (local Iraqis and Syrians) by integrating them together in the military ranks, uniformly accepting a fundamentally Arabic and Islamic character to their identity of affiliation with the Caliphate alone. In the pre-Caliphate era, one will have noted the existence of foreign fighter battalions for what was then ISIS fundamentally based around single nationalities and ethnicities, such as Katiba al-Battar al-Libi (Libyan while attracting some Europeans of Maghrebi and north African origin) and the Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi Battalion (Gazan). However, since the Caliphate declaration, these battalions have generally dropped off the radar of social media, and as colleague Michael Weiss was able to establish in an interview with an Islamic State defector, the Katiba al-Battar al-Libi was in fact disbanded for precisely these reasons of discouraging affiliations on ethnicity, which of course may give rise to loyalties beyond those owed to the Caliph.
2. Distinctions are made as to who must/need not be affiliated with the Islamic State in the oil and gas industries: while the oil and gas fields are themselves owned by the Islamic State and anyone who makes a direct investment in them must have an allegiance to the Caliph, those who wish to purchase the crude substance from the fields and then refine/transport/deal in the products, inside or outside the territory of the Caliphate, need not have this allegiance. Therefore, refiners, truckers and those who sell to civilians are not necessarily affiliated with the Islamic State, and the ultimate sale of oil to outside actors such as the territories of the rebels and the Assad regime, even though they are enemies of the Islamic State, is officially sanctioned and allowed. All of this has been well established and corroborated in reporting.
3. The text sanctions co-optation of personnel who worked under prior governments as a means to run projects under the Islamic State. In other words, when the Islamic State claims to provide services under its Diwan al-Khidamat, the personnel running the projects are often the same people who worked in the services offices of prior systems. This is particularly true of Iraq-controlled territories of the Islamic State, such as Mosul, where municipal office employees are working under Diwan al-Khidamat. Internal documents show an established pattern of compelling such personnel to return to work under threat of confiscating property. Compare also with the threats to confiscate property of medical personnel who leave Islamic State territory and will not work under its Diwan al-Siha.
4. The section on media is particularly interesting with regards to auxiliary media outlets. In analysis of Islamic State propaganda, one notes the existence of as shadowy ‘Amaq News agency, which ostensibly uses more neutral language in its reports on Islamic State operations: e.g. “muqatilun” (‘fighters’) rather than “mujahidun”. Further, while ‘Amaq News covers military operations against external enemies and aspects of life under the Islamic State, it does not cover implementation of hudud punishments like cutting hands of thieves, or internal security operations featuring execution of spies. This exactly mirrors the plans outlined here.
The Isis papers: leaked documents show how Isis is building its state ~ Shiv Malik, THE GUARDIAN, Monday 7 December 2015.
A leaked internal Islamic State manual shows how the terrorist group has set about building a state in Iraq and Syria complete with government departments, a treasury and an economic programme for self-sufficiency, the Guardian can reveal.
The 24-page document, obtained by the Guardian, sets out a blueprint for establishing foreign relations, a fully fledged propaganda operation, and centralised control over oil, gas and the other vital parts of the economy.
The manual, written last year and entitled Principles in the administration of the Islamic State, lays bare Isis’s state-building aspirations and the ways in which it has managed to set itself apart as the richest and most destabilising jihadi group of the past 50 years.
Together with other documents obtained by the Guardian, it builds up a picture of a group that, although sworn to a founding principle of brutal violence, is equally set on more mundane matters such as health, education, commerce, communications and jobs. In short, it is building a state.
As western aircraft step up their aerial war on Isis targets in Syria, the implication is that the military task is not simply one of battlefield arithmetic. Isis is already far more than the sum of its fighters.
The document – written as a foundation text to train “cadres of administrators” in the months after Isis’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a “caliphate” inIraq and Syria on 28 June 2014 – sketches out how to organise government departments including education, natural resources, industry, foreign relations, public relations and military camps.
Dated some time between July and October 2014, it details how Isis will build separate training camps for regular troops and veteran fighters. Veterans, it says, should go on a fortnight’s refresher course each year to receive instruction in the “latest arts of using weapons, military planning and military technologies”.
It says they will also be given a “detailed commentary on the technologies” of the enemy and “how the soldiers of the state can take advantage of them”.
The statecraft manual recommends a department for administering the military camps, a complex arrangement that, as described, goes well beyond the capabilities of al-Qaida in Afghanistan during the time it plotted the 9/11 attacks.
The document reveals for the first time that Isis always intended to train children in the arts of war. Isis propaganda from this year has clearly shown children being drilled, and even made to shoot captives.
But the text, authored by an Egyptian called Abu Abdullah, is explicit about the intention to do so from mid- to late 2014. Children, it says, will be receive “training on bearing light arms” and “outstanding individuals” will be “selected from them for security portfolio assignments, including checkpoints, patrols”.
The text highlights the need for Isis to achieve a unified culture encompassing foreigners and natives and sets out the need for self-sufficiency by establishing its own independent “factories for local military and food production” and creating “isolated safe zones” for providing for local needs.
The document came from a businessman working within Isis via the academic researcher Aymenn al-Tamimi, who has worked over the past year to compile the most thorough log of Isis documents available to the public.
For safety reasons, the Guardian cannot reveal further information about the businessman but he has leaked nearly 30 documents in all, including a financial statement from one of Isis’s largest provinces.
Isis has suffered military setbacks in recent weeks, and some Sunni Arabs from Raqqa have indicated that its statecraft might be better on paper than it is in practice.
But Tamimi said the playbook, along with a further 300 Isis documents he has obtained over the past year, showed that building a viable country rooted in fundamentalist theology was the central aim. “[Isis] is a project that strives to govern. It’s not just a case of their sole end being endless battle.”
Gen Stanley McChrystal (retired), who led the military units that helped destroy Isis’s predecessor organisation (ISI) in Iraq from 2006 to 2008, said: “If it is indeed genuine, it is fascinating and should be read by everyone – particularly policymakers in the west.
“If the west sees Isis as an almost stereotypical band of psychopathic killers, we risk dramatically underestimating them.
“In the Principles in the administration of the Islamic State, you see a focus on education (really indoctrination) beginning with children but progressing through their ranks, a recognition that effective governance is essential, thoughts on their use of technology to master information (propaganda), and a willingness to learn from the mistakes of earlier movements.
“It’s not a big departure from the works of Mao, the practices of the Viet Minh in Indochina, or other movements for whom high-profile actions were really just the tip of a far more nuanced iceberg of organising activity.
Charlie Winter, a senior researcher for Georgia State University who has seen the document, said it demonstrated Isis’s high capacity for premeditation.
“Far from being an army of irrational, bloodthirsty fanatics, IS [Isis] is a deeply calculating political organisation with an extremely complex, well-planned infrastructure behind it.”
Lt Gen Graeme Lamb, former head of UK special forces, said the playbook carried a warning for current military strategy.
Referring to sections of the statecraft text in which Isis repeatedly claims it is the only true representatives of Sunni Arab Muslims in the region, Lamb said it was all the more important to ensure wider Sunni leadership in the fight with Isis, or risk “fuelling this monster”.
“Seeing Daesh [Isis] and the caliphate as simply a target to be systematically broken by forces other than Middle Eastern Sunnis … is to fail to understand this fight.
“It must be led by the Sunni Arab leadership and its many tribes across the region, with us in the west and the other religious factions in the Middle East acting in support.
“It is not currently how we are shaping the present counter-Isis campaign, thereby setting ourselves up for potential failure.”