The jihadi fighters of ISIS are in control of large swaths of territory in northern Iraq, and they are using infographics to show it.
The Sunni militant group has been publishing corporate-style annual reports since 2012. They feature tables of attack figures and geographical data on the group’s operations.
Each report, called “al-Naba’’ (The Report), demonstrates the extent to which ISIS leadership has transformed the group into a well-organized strategic force, rather than an undertaker of haphazard attacks against the region’s Shia people.
The infographic from the 2011-2012 report shows the figures for nine different types of ISIS actions from that year. The information is in Arabic, but Vox.com has created an English version, available here.
Eerily familiar-looking stock graphics accompany each statistic: a black pickup truck with a red explosion in the truck bed (33 suicide vehicle IEDs), a black gun (633 assassinations), a light blue motorbike (22 remote bike bombs). In total, ISIS counted 4,500 military operations in 2011-2012.
That number skyrocketed the following year. The 2012-2013 infographic, published on March 31 of this year, details 7,681 military actions in 14 different categories.
The categories, arranged in a circle on a tan background, are accompanied by a black graphic and accompanying statistic. According to Vox’s translation of the report, there were 1015 “boobytraps/bombs/burning of homes/halls, HQs,’’ 1083 assassinations, and 160 suicide vests.
Vox.com’s Dylan Matthews writes that they have not yet been able to translate two of the categories, both of which represent “100+’’ of some kind of action. The first is represented by a black smudge, and the second is of a running man with little marks depicting motion.
Publishing metrics is an effective strategy for a military organization, writes Alex Bilger of the Institute for the Study of War, a non-partisan public policy research organization, in his analysis of the annual reports. Metrics “demostrate the use of centrally distribute resources,’’ “provide a higher command with a means to compare subordinate commands,’’ and “provide a means to communicate organizational efficacy to outside parties, such as donors, al-Qaeda groups, and adversaries.’’ Bilger’s full report is available here.
The reports are just one example of ISIS’s communication capabilities. Two weeks ago, they tweeted photos of an apparent massacre of 1,700 Shia Iraqi soldiers. They also posted the images (which have not yet been verified) to jihadi internet forums.