At the dawn of its caliphate, the Islamic State’s global pretensions were limited to being the premier destination for foreign “travellers,” but we now understand that the caliphate was more than a destination: it was to be the foundation for a more rigorous transmission of global jihad. The collapse of its political project affords us an opportunity to reassess the Islamic State movement. Today its underground insurgency is the flagship of a political enterprise consisting of formal and aspiring affiliates dotting the Middle East, Africa and Asia while coordinating and inspiring terror operations abroad. We present a conceptual framework through which to understand how the Islamic State’s network of insurgent affiliates operates, based on an analysis of its attack data and primary sources. When we assess the bureaucratic fluidity of its structure in both time and place, combined with a wide ranging spectrum of relationships with affiliates and networks far and wide, the adhocratic nature of the Islamic State enterprise emerges and demands attention as we try to understand the role its structure and management influences its resilience as a global movement.
This article was published as part of a Special Edition of the ICCT Journal, Evolutions in Counter-Terrorism.