Relationships between entities form an important element of warfare. In the current conflict in Iraq and Syria, the military alignment (or lack thereof) of states will likely be a key determinant in the eventual outcome. However, states are not the only actors within Iraq-Syria that are forming and evolving in their relationships with others. Over the past several months, one interesting facet in regards to relationships between actors involved in the conflict has been how the Islamic State  has received and accepted a number of pledges from other organizations and groups in its quest to establish and expand its caliphate.

This issue of the CTC Sentinel is designed to address this phenomenon by focusing on four of the most complex and challenging regions in which organizations have offered bay`a to the Islamic State: the case of Jama’at Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis in Egypt, the crowded environment of actors in North Africa, the longstanding jihadi landscape in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and the recent acceptance of Boko Haram into the Islamic State’s portfolio of actors. This issue also includes a discussion of a more structured manner for thinking about cooperation and relationships among terrorist organizations.

In addition, this special edition of the CTC Sentinel is being launched together with an interactive online map showing key events in the progression of bay`a being offered to the Islamic State.[1] Designed to be a living resource for those interested in following this issue, it provides specifics regarding who has offered bay`a, where such offers have come from, when (if) they were accepted, and other relevant information regarding this process.

The purpose of this article is to examine how the Islamic State is developing relationships with other groups and individuals that have expressed interest in being a part of its “caliphate.” The mechanism by which the Islamic State expands its caliphate is either through territories immediately adjacent to those currently under its control or through welcoming groups that pledge allegiance to its “Caliph” that are located in different parts of the world. The latter mechanism is known as bay`a, a concept that has roots in the history of Islam and has evolved over time. In addition to understanding how the Islamic State has been collecting bay`a, this article also discusses how these relationships do not necessarily strengthen the organization. Over time, these relationships may present just as much challenge as promise to the Islamic State.

Bay`a vs. Support
Before delving into how bay`a factors into the current events, it is important to distinguish between bay`a and support. In Islamic parlance, the bay`a  to the Caliph is a pledge of allegiance that, upon being accepted, formally brings the group or the individual making the pledge under the authority of the Caliph. The origins of this practice is tied to early believers that were reported to have pledged bay`a to Muhammad.

In 627-628, Muhammad travelled to Mecca to visit the Ka’aba (what is now recognized as one of the most holy sites in Islam). However, the local tribe that controlled access to the area, the Quraysh, had decided to prevent Mohammad and his followers from completing their journey. After negotiations to try to resolve the impasse, Mohammad sent an emissary to meet with the Quraysh. When his return was delayed, Mohammad and his followers feared the emissary had been killed.

In response to the delay and consequent anxiety, the followers who were traveling with the Prophet took a pledge to avenge what they perceived as the death of one of their own and to follow the Prophet.[2] This pledge was solemnized through the joining of hands, with the person offering the pledge physically touching the Prophet.  It was said that this show of unity and dedication convinced the Quraysh to negotiate.[3] The fact that the followers of the Prophet made the pledge is significant; the fact that it was done even though they had very few weapons and faced likely defeat if they engaged in a fight against the Quraysh is what makes it such an impactful story.[4] The significance of the pledge of bay`a on this occasion led to the first mention of bay`a in the Quran:[5]

Certainly was Allah pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquility upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest.[6]

This custom continued with Muhammad’s successors, the caliphs, as a sign of their political legitimacy. It is worth nothing at this point that a mere pledge of support does not carry the same binding relationship as a bay`a. Given this political importance of the bay`a in Islamic history, the Islamic State’s claim of expansion has thus far been premised on groups pledging bay`a to its Caliph and not simply support.

However, there is a lack of unified terminology in much of the public discussion of the Islamic State’s relationships with other jihadi actors. Some have conflated the idea of verbal expressions of support to mean the same thing as a pledge of allegiance (bay`a). These two concepts are not equivalent and have different implications regarding expected behavior and the future prognosis of such relationships.

What this means is that words of support may not carry the weight ascribed to them in some analyses. Jihadis are sometimes hesitant to openly criticize and fight against each other, especially when new groups emerge or enter into the discussion.[7] This may be due to the fact that there is concern about introducing fitna (sedition) into the community, which according to some interpretations of the Quran is considered to be worse than killing.[8] Consequently, even if jihadi groups do not agree with each other, they will still offer generic words of support to opposing groups and their operations. However, such words should not be given greater weight than they actually deserve. They do not imply that a formal relationship exists.

To be clear, even when bay`a is given, it might carry different weight in some regions and cultures than in others (see Geoff Porter’s article later in this edition for an examination of this idea in the region of North Africa). It is also unclear how durable such pledges will be as time progresses. Nevertheless, the ongoing offering of bay`a by jihadis and jihadist organizations and groups, and its subsequent acceptance (or not) by the Islamic State, represents a potentially dangerous development that bears further analysis.

The Expanding Caliphate? The Islamic State and Its Affiliates
The Islamic State has been collecting bay`a from individuals and organizations around the world since June 2014. At that point in time, the Islamic State’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani announced the formation of “the Islamic State” and said that all faithful Muslims, whether groups or individuals, were required to provide bay`a to the new caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[9][10] Despite the fact that there was a significant amount of backlash against the Islamic State and its claim that it was owed bay`a, a number of individuals and groups have given bay`a to al-Baghdadi since the declaration of the caliphate.[11]

Each of these new bay`a  is reported by the Islamic State (and in many cases the mass media) as evidence of the Islamic State’s global appeal. However, more analysis is needed into the circumstances surrounding these offers and acceptance of bay`a before any conclusion can be reached regarding their overall effect on the Islamic State’s brand and potential expansion. The rest of this article examines three questions that are critical to understanding the implications of bay`a in the current environment: why don’t all jihadi groups give bay`a to al-Baghdadi; why doesn’t al-Baghdadi just accept all pledges of bay`a ; and what is the practical impact of having given bay`a? After answering these questions, this article offers a brief examination of the case of Boko Haram and concludes with some recommendations for thinking about the issue of bay`a and the Islamic State.

Why Don’t Already Established Groups Give Bay`a to the Islamic State?
As previously discussed, there were a number of new groups that emerged in response to the declaration of the Caliphate that pledged bay`a to al-Baghdadi. However, the emergence of the Islamic State onto the world stage threw already existing jihadi groups into some level of turmoil as these groups and their members were faced with the decision of continuing with their current affiliation or independent status, aligning with a more established and well-known entity such as al-Qa`ida, or joining with an up-and-coming group like the Islamic State.[12] In general, there are two levels at which the decision to pledge bay`a to the Islamic State or not plays out that are worth examining: senior-level leadership or lower-level personnel.

As J.M. Berger has noted, from the perspective of the senior members of already established groups, there is a credibility issue at stake if they have already pledged allegiance to other organizations (such as al-Qa`ida).[13] If they choose to go against the previous bay`a  that they have offered to someone like Ayman al-Zawahiri, then what does this say to their subordinates about the bay`a that they in turn have pledged to those very leaders? Beyond that, many senior leaders of already existing groups have spoken against the Islamic State’s declaration of a caliphate. Going back on these pronouncements is a recipe for disunity.

There are other important reasons for senior-level leadership of already established organizations to avoid pledging bay`a to al-Baghdadi. For one, leaders of already established organizations may not see eye-to-eye with the Islamic State on matters of ideology and practice.[14] Such disagreements are not easily forgotten, nor can they be simply swept under the rug due to one group’s success. This provides an important reminder that the emergence of the Islamic State has not caused others groups or individuals to forget the history its shares with them. In some cases, the Islamic State’s willingness to act against the advice of other groups or individuals may create distrust that may never be overcome.

However, the issue is far less clear at the lower-levels of these organizations. It is at this level that the emergence and popularity of the Islamic State poses one of its greatest challenges to already existing jihadi organizations. Outside of the leadership of established organizations, mid- and lower-level members of these groups have been defecting to the Islamic State. We have seen examples of this as members of already established groups have been defecting towards the Islamic State in the Af-Pak region, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere in North Africa.[15]

This is not to suggest that the Islamic State is immune to the pressure defections. Even now there are some indications that such defections have already been taking place.[16] Indeed, the very fear of defections may be one of the reasons that al-Adnani’s announcement of the Islamic State and its Caliph had a section that seemed to be directly addressed towards those who would be faced with pressure to disavow al-Baghdadi’s legitimacy at some future point:

Be very wary of breaking the ranks. For you to be snatched by birds would be better for you than to break the ranks or take part in doing so. And if anyone wants to break the ranks, split his head with bullets and empty its insides, whoever he may be.[17]

Such pressures will only increase as the Islamic State faces more scrutiny and resistance over time. The organization, which has enjoyed operating from a position of strength and momentum, will ultimately have to face the very challenge that has been a boon to it until this point: that of groups picking off some of its members.  Such reports of defections are already emerging, although it is too early to say if such defections have reached a critical level.[18]

Why Not Accept All Bay`a Automatically and Unconditionally?
It is important to note that, to be official and valid, bay`a  must be offered by an organization and then accepted by the Islamic State. And, while the Islamic State has shown itself willing to accept bay`a from a wide range of actors, such acceptances have not always come quickly. For example, on October 14, 2014, the spokesperson for the TTP and five other TTP emirs released a message in which they offered bay`a to al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State. A number of other groups similarly offered bay`a before and after this point. The first official round of acceptances came in a speech by al-Baghdadi on November 13, 2014. However, a specific acceptance of the TTP offer was not made. In fact, offers made by organizations in a number of non-Arab countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Caucasia, India, and Indonesia) were not explicitly accepted in Baghdadi’s November 2014 speech either. The fact that these organizations were not being accepted raised questions about whether there was something wrong with their offer of bay`a or whether there was a bias on the part of the Islamic State against individuals and groups in non-Arab countries.

A potential reason for this delay came in the 5th issue of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s English language magazine that is released on a periodic basis. In this particular issue, a section titled “Remaining and Expanding” appeared. In this section appeared the same language from al-Baghdadi’s audio message regarding the formal acceptance of bay`a from organizations within Arab states. However, the (unattributed) author of this section of the magazine then went on to discuss “a number of other groups in Khurasan [Afghanistan & Pakistan], al-Qawqaz [the Caucasus region], Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and elsewhere” that had also offered bay`a, but were left off the list of formal acceptances.

In what followed, the author stated that, while the bay`a of these other organizations was accepted, formal recognition of them as provinces (wilayat) of the Islamic State would have to wait until 1) the appointment or recognition of leadership by the Islamic State and/or 2) the establishment of a direct line of communication between these groups and the Islamic State so that these groups could “receive information and directives from [al-Baghdadi].” The author also noted that this was the case even though some of these organizations were stronger than organizations that had been formally accepted and designated as provinces.

The first non-Arab region in which groups and individuals overcame these hurdles to gain acceptance of its bay`a was in Khurasan (Afghanistan-Pakistan), a region from which multiple individuals pledged allegiance on multiple occasions (see Don Rassler’s article later in this edition for more on this topic). The first of these pledges was made on October 13, 2014. After a number of other attempts, the bay`a from these actors was finally accepted on January 26, 2015, after a period of 105 days. According to the official statement of the Islamic State by al-Adnani, soldiers in Khurasan “have fulfilled the conditions and met the requirements for the declaration of wilayat Khurasan.”[19] He then proceeded to identify the emir and deputy of this new province. Subsequent pledges to al-Baghdadi in this region have been made to the local emir.

While one should avoid reading too much into the delay between a group’s offer of bay`a and its formal recognition and establishment as a province of the Islamic State, there are several interesting points that can be made at this stage regarding this process and what it suggests about the Islamic State’s strategy for managing these relationships.

First, there is a process by which the Islamic State is attempting to organize its global supporters. The process of accepting bay`a and claiming expansion is not going to occur simply for the sake of collecting affiliates. Thus, even though the Islamic State has clearly shown itself to be more willing than al-Qa`ida under Usama Bin Ladin to accept new affiliates, it still is exercising some level of due diligence and concern.[20] It may be that the Islamic State recognizes that making sure affiliates are led by trusted and vetted leaders is critical to maintaining a semblance of unity in its expanding caliphate. This may provide a potential explanation for a rumor that circulated on jihadi forums that a number of members of the Islamic State were dispatched by al-Baghdadi to return to Libya to help organize the emerging group of supporters there.[21]

Second, the fact that the Islamic State is waiting to establish communication and select leaders before officially rebranding them as provinces suggests a point of vulnerability in the lifecycle of these organizations. The Islamic State, particularly as its primary territory in Iraq and Syria comes increasingly under stress, will struggle to maintain communication with outside groups and actors. The need may arise to sacrifice some operational security to maintain communications with these outside groups.

Third, as has been noted in the course of this examination, not all bay`a are accepted uniformly. Several pledges from members of the TTP were not accepted right away; in addition, although Boko Haram’s pledge was finally accepted, it has been suggested that it was in the works for some time. Indeed, the Islamic State appears to have started by accepting the bay`a of smaller (but possibly easier to manage) groups.[22] This is a potential weakness that can possibly be exploited. These smaller organizations that have been formally recognized and branded as “provinces” of the Islamic State may be more vulnerable to counterterrorism forces. If these smaller provinces can be picked off, the optic of a “state” that is unable to defend its expanded territory may be bad for the leadership of the Islamic State. Such a blemish on the Islamic State’s image would doubtless serve both as a boon to those opposed to the Islamic State and potentially as a deterrent to those on the fence that are considering joining it.

What is the Practical Impact of Bay`a?
The long-term impact of bay`a for the Islamic State has yet to be determined. For many of these affiliates, the time that has elapsed since their acceptance into the fold of the Islamic State has been less than a year. Based on observation of what these satellite organizations have done since declaring bay`a, the results at this point are far from convincing when it comes to the overall prognosis of the Islamic State’s expanding caliphate. Without a doubt, some organizations that have pledged bay`a to the Islamic State have been able to carry out operations and appear to have effective propaganda wings. This is particularly the case in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and the Af-Pak region. For example, on January 29, 2015, Jama’at Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (Wilayat Sinai) carried out an operation which resulted in dozens of casualties and later released a statement on the attack (Nelly Lahoud’s article in this issue explores the IS in the Sinai in more detail).[23] In this section, I offer a few examples that illustrate some of the struggles and challenges of some the Islamic State’s recent affiliates.

In the case of Jund al-Khilafa fi Ard al-Jaza’ir (Algeria), the allegiance with the Islamic State, combined with the execution of a French hostage broadcast to the world, brought a significant reaction from the Algerian government. About a month after being formally accepted into the Islamic State by al-Baghdadi, the leader of Jund al-Khilafa fi Ard al-Jaza’ir was shot dead by Algerian security forces.[24] The group has been quiet since that point, only releasing one message on March 9, 2015. Prior to this message, some analysts had wondered if the group may have effectively ceased to exist. Another possibility is that the group (or what remains of it) has simply moved away from the public spotlight to plan its next moves. Either way, the brash presentation of the group’s allegiance to the Islamic State seems to have taken a backseat for the time being.

For other organizations, it seems that while pledging bay`a resulted in a fair amount of media attention, there was no appreciable change in their ability to carry out operations in the short-term. For example, Jund al-Khilafa fi Tunis (Tunisia), after offering bay`a in an audio message on December 5, 2014, did not appear to do anything after this point. There were no media messages or claims of operations forthcoming from this organization. However, 100 days later, on March 15, 2015, a group using the same name posted a statement online in which is claimed to be organizing itself for a formal pledge to al-Baghdadi:

Wait for the glad tidings of what will bring you joy and bring joy to the Muslims in general, soon…You know that the stage of sifting and building takes time. For the sake of continuing to build the structure and solidifying it, the foundations and pillars must be strong.[25]

On March 18, 2015, three days after this statement appeared, news of an attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis emerged.[26] To be clear, at the time of this writing there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack and it may be unrelated to the aforementioned pledge. It bears repeating, however, that the lack of media or military activity on the part of some of these emerging organizations on behalf of the Islamic State at one point in time is not conclusive regarding the possibility of future activity and operations.

One other possibility is worth mentioning regarding the perceived lack of operations carried out in regions in which groups have pledged support to the Islamic State. Judging the efficacy of these groups based on their ability to carry out operations or create propaganda materials alone assumes that the execution of violence is the purpose of these relationships. However, it may be that the organizations in some regions are more useful to the Islamic State for their logistical contributions. In Indonesia, for example, a number of videos have shown pledges made to al-Baghdadi and parades in support of the Islamic State.[27] Nevertheless, no public announcement of an affiliate in the region has occurred, nor have attacks in the country been attributed to the Islamic State or its supporters. However, reports about an increasing flow of fighters coming from Indonesia have emerged.[28] While such reports are anecdotal, it is important to remember that the Islamic State may use support and bay`a from outside organizations for a variety of ends (recruiting, fundraising, etc.), not just the execution of violence.[29]

Finally, it does not appear that bay`a is a panacea for the traditional challenges faced by terrorist or insurgent organizations: finances, logistics, leadership, etc. Shortly after the offer and acceptance of bay`a from a number of jihadists in Libya, and the creation of three wilaya (provinces) in Libya, a message appeared on Twitter from an individual claiming to reside in the region. While offering some praise for the organization, he highlighted some problems that the group was facing and suggested that the Islamic State take measures to remedy these problems. Among them was the need for money and leadership within the nascent organization.[30]

The Case of Boko Haram
Boko Haram, which has been carrying out a sustained level of violence in northeastern Nigeria since 2009, first mentioned al-Baghdadi in a July 2014 message of support for the broader jihadi movement.[31] In fact, al-Baghdadi was mentioned alongside al-Qa`ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban head Mullah Omar. Despite some claiming that this first message was a pledge of loyalty to al-Baghdadi, it was actually only a show of support and unity for him and his organization. The fact that it mentioned other jihadi leaders reinforces this fact.

However, as time progressed, Boko Haram’s demonstration of support for al-Baghdadi increasingly transitioned into a much closer affinity between the two groups. The most recent evidence of this has been the rising level of sophistication in Boko Haram’s media campaign, to include videos that mimic the style utilized by the Islamic State.[32] Such developments culminated in the public pledge by Abubakar Shekau to al-Baghdadi in an audio statement released by Boko Haram’s media wing on March 8, 2015 and the acceptance of this pledge by the spokesman of the Islamic State on March 13, 2015.[33]

While Jacob Zenn offers a more detailed analysis of the history of the budding relationship between Boko Haram and the Islamic State elsewhere in this issue, a brief analysis of the potential motivations and hesitancies of both actors in entering into this relationship reemphasizes the importance of looking at bay`a in terms of potential advantages and drawbacks. Such an analysis also provides a view into potential fissures that may arise between these organizations over the long-term.

On the part of the Islamic State, being able to add a group of Boko Haram’s size and celebrity is a large boon to its portfolio. This addition might be especially useful to the Islamic State’s ability to continue its narrative of “remaining and expanding” in the face of ongoing offensives, especially in Iraq.[34] For the Islamic State, however, the risk of accepting Boko Haram is not insignificant. The chance that a significant boost to its manpower or capabilities will come from Nigeria seems small. And the Islamic State runs the risk of being overshadowed by an affiliate which it cannot control.[35] Shekau has shown himself to be wild, crude, and seemingly erratic in some decision making.[36] To make matters more difficult, Boko Haram’s organizational structure has been described as one that is decentralized, with internal divisions taking place not all that infrequently, especially when it comes to significant decisions.[37] The optics for the Islamic State of being the reason behind the fracturing of an organization or being unable to control an organization that acts contrary to its desires would cast a shadow over the Islamic State’s caliphate. Despite the acceptance of this pledge, these issues will not go away and may only increase over time.

On the part of Boko Haram, the benefits of joining the Islamic State at this time are not obvious and incontrovertible. While the Islamic State can offer its brand, it is unclear what the tangible benefits of that association would be.[38] It is unlikely that already established fighters are going to be flowing from the Islamic State to Boko Haram in Nigeria. And, despite al-Adnani’s call for new fighters to come to Nigeria, it remains to be seen if association with the Islamic State will serve as a significant draw.[39] Finally, given the increasing financial pressure under which the Islamic State finds itself, it is not a sure bet that financial support would be forthcoming and enduring. Finally, while Boko Haram might not have to change much if accepted into the fold of the Islamic State, it would presumably have some smaller measure of autonomy as opposed to what it is used to while operating on its own. As time passes, some of these issues may become more and more pressing for Boko Haram.

In sum, there are positives and negatives for both the Islamic State and Boko Haram in drawing into a closer relationship. That said, the acceptance by IS of the formal pledge of bay`a offered by Boko Haram may expose both organizations to increased risk from each other, not to mention the possibility of increased counterterrorism cooperation against them. These issues, illustrated in the case of Boko Haram, are present to varying degrees in all the relationships the Islamic State is forming with these organizations.

In the business world, expansion is not necessarily synonymous with success. Many companies have done more damage than good to themselves because they expanded too fast or too much.[40] Expansion can be an indicator of success and strength, but only if properly managed over the short- and long-term. The Islamic State’s expanding portfolio of affiliates throughout the world should be viewed in a similar light. While potentially a boon to the organization, the mismanagement of such a portfolio leaves the Islamic State open to significant criticisms regarding its capabilities, legitimacy, and strategy. This issue of the CTC Sentinel represents an effort to provide deeper understanding of what the Islamic State is doing with regarding to those offering bay`a and what the implications of these actions are for the future.

Daniel Milton is the Director of Research at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

[1]  The bay`a map is available on the CTC’s ISIL resource page at

[2]  Only one person did not pledge bay`aon this occasion.

[3]  Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar, p. 153. This incident is discussed at length by Abu Jandal al-Azdi in March-April of 2004 in issue number 13 of the jihadist Arabic language magazine Sawt al-Jihad, which deals with “Issues of Jihad and the Mujahidin in the Arabian Peninsula.”

[4]  The lack of weapons was a point made by Abu Suhayb al-Maqdisi in a post that appear on the Shumukh al-Islam Network on 21 April 2013.

[5]  It is important to note that this was not the first time that bay`a was pledged to the Prophet, although the context surrounding it as well as the number of individuals make it significant.

[6]  Quran, Surat Al-Fath 48:18.

[7]  To be clear, jihadi organizations are not immune from criticizing or fighting against each other. Recent events between the Islamic State and other organization (al-Qa`ida and Jabhat al-Nusra) have been marked by periods of heated fights online and violent clashes on the ground. However, in the initial stages, differences at times are deemphasized.

[8]  Quran al-Baqra 2:191. One jihadhi wrote an article which appeared in October-November 2003 in the 4th issue of the Arabic language magazine Sawt al-Jihad titled “Fitna [sedition] is worse than slaughter.”

[9]  Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, “This is the Promise of Allah,” Al-Hayat Media Center, (2014).

[10]  To be clear, groups do not simply pledge bay`a to “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” They usually use some longer form of his name. In the case of the recent pledge by Boko Haram, the pledge was given to “the Caliph of Muslims Abubakar Abu Bakr Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Husseini al-Qurashi.”

[11]  Such rejections came from religious figures in many countries. Prominent examples included Mehmet Gormez in Turkey and Abdulaziz al-Sheikh in Saudi Arabia. See Ayla Jean Yackley, “Turkey’s top cleric calls new Islamic ‘caliphate’ illegitimate,” Reuters, July 22, 2014 and “Islamic State is our top enemy: Saudi mufti,” Al-Jazeera, August 19, 2014.

[12]  Nelly Lahoud and Muhammad al-`Ubaydi, “The War of Jihadists Against Jihadists in Syria,” CTC Sentinel 7:3 (2014).

[13]  J.M. Berger, “The Islamic State vs. al Qaeda: Who’s winning the war to become the jihadi superpower?,” Foreign Policy, September 2, 2014.

[14]  Lahoud and al-`Ubaydi, ibid.

[15]  Basma Atassi, “Qaeda chief annuls Syrian-Iraqi jihad merger,” Al-Jazeera, June, 9 2014; Omar Shabbi, “AQIM defectors raise fears of the Islamic State branch in North Africa,” Al-Monitor, September 9, 2014; Gianluca Mezzofiore, “Syria Isis News: 40 al-Qaida Nusra Fighters Defect to Islamic State with Enslaved Woman Given to Leader,” International Business Times, October 21, 2014; Brian Todd, “the Islamic Statethe Islamic State gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda,”, January 22, 2015; “Islamic State appoints leaders of ‘Khorasan province,’ issues veiled threat to Afghan Taliban,” Long War Journal, January 27, 2015; Rawa Jawad, “How strong is Islamic State in Libya,” BBC News – Africa, February 4, 2015; Rita Katz, Rumours of Pro-Isis Factions within al-Shabaab are not far-fetched,” International Business Times, March 17, 2015.

[16]  Tom Coghlan, “Islamic State hit by desertions and disgust at brutality,” The Times, February 21, 2015.

[17]  al-Adnani, (2014).

[18]  Erika Solomon, “Isis morale falls as momentum slows and casualties mount,” Financial Times, December 19, 2014; Heather Saul, “Suicide bombers ‘defecting from Isis’ and fleeing to Turkey or rival militant groups,” The Independent, February 9, 2015.

[19]  Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, “Say, ‘Die In Your Rage’” Al-Hayat Media Center, (2015).

[20]  For more on Bin Ladin’s concern over affiliates, see Nelly Lahoud, Stuart Caudill, Liam Collins, Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, Don Rassler, and Muhammad al-`Ubaydi, Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined? (West Point, N.Y.: Combating Terrorism Center, 2012).

[21]  Although the possibility of the Islamic State sending operatives to Libya was raised online previously, it was only recently confirmed in media reporting regarding the Islamic State in Libya. Catherine Herridge, “Sources: More than a dozen ISIS operatives in Libya, but no US authority to strike,”, March 3, 2015.

[22]  This may be the Islamic State’s way of trying to deal with the classic principal-agent problem, in which the principal undertakes certain actions to increase its ability to monitor its agent’s behavior.

[23]  Patrick Kingsley and Manu Abdo, “At least 32 killed in Egypt as militants attack army and police targets in Sinai,” Guardian, January 30, 2015.

[24]  “Algerian army ‘kills jihadist behind Herve Gourdel beheading’,” BBC News – Africa, December 23, 2014.

[25]  SITE Intelligence Group, “Tunisian Fighters Respond to IS Fighter Urging They Pledge Allegiance to IS,” March 18, 2015.

[26]  Greg Botelho and Mohammed Tawfeeq, “Tunisia museum attack kills at least 19; three gunmen sought,” CNN, March 18, 2015.

[27]  George Roberts, “Terrorism expert Sidney Jones says Indonesian jihadists celebrating IS victories in Iraq, pledging allegiance online,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, June 12, 2014.

[28]  “The Muslim nation where ISIS is free to recruit,” CBS News, October 6, 2014; Erin Banco, “Number Of ISIS Recruits In Indonesia More Than Tripled In Recent Months,” International Business Times, December 9, 2014.

[29]  The use of different spaces for different purposes is not uncommon for terrorist groups. While the group Hezbollah has facilitated attacks in Latin America, it seems mostly now to rely on the region for other purposes, especially fundraising. Matthew Levitt, “South of the Border, A Threat From Hezbollah,” The Journal of International Security Affairs, (2013); Arthur Brice, “Iran, Hezbollah mine Latin America for revenue, recruits, analysts say,” CNN, 3 June 2013.

[30]  Message posted by user Abu Irhayim al-Libi on Twitter on January 15, 2015. The message included a link to an article titled “The Land of Caliphate in Libya Between the Calls for Hijra and the Reality’s Challenges.” The article can be accessed at

[31]  “Boko Haram voices support for ISIS’ Baghdadi,” Al-Arabiya, July 13, 2014.

[32]  Tim Lister, “Boko Haram + ISIS = Marriage from Hell,”, February 25, 2015.

[33]  For more on the allegedly budding relationship between the Islamic State and Boko Haram, see Cahal Milmo and Tom Witherrow, “Boko Haram closes in on its dream of an African caliphate – and Isis gives its blessing, and advice on strategy,” Independent, (2014). On the pledge itself, see “Nigeria’s Boko Haram pledges allegiance to Islamic State,” BBC News, March 7, 2015.

[34]  The idea of “remaining and expanding” headlined issue #5 of the Islamic State’s English language magazine, Dabiq.

[35]  Which is, oddly enough, the same predicament al-Qa`ida found itself in with the Islamic State’s predecessor organizations al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).

[36]  Robert Windrem, “Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau: the Man Who Would Be Africa’s Bin Laden,” NBC News, May 18, 2014; Rukmini Callimachi, “In Newly Sophisticated Boko Haram Videos, Hints of Islamic State Ties,” New York Times, February 20, 2015.

[37]  “Boko Haram: Growing Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” report prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, September 13, 2013. The decentralized structure of the group came into play during negotiations with the Nigerian government. Roddy Barclay and Thomas Hansen, “Nigeria’s Frayed Ceasefire With Boko Haram,” Forbes, October 22, 2014.

[38]  Some may point out that the aforementioned improvement in Boko Haram’s media presentation was a tangible benefit that came at the hand of IS personnel who were sent to Nigeria to help the organization. This is certainly possible, but not confirmed. It is equally likely that Boko Haram elevated its media campaign on its own to appear more capable to IS.

[39]  “IS Accepts Boko Haram Pledge of Allegiance,” ABC News, March 12, 2015.

[40]  Consider, for example, Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The value of the company’s stock, which was at its highest level in 2003-2004, shed over $40 a share and bottomed out above $1.00 a share by 2009 due to “[overexpansion] during the donut heyday of the 1990s.” Rick Newman, “15 Companies That Might Not Survive 2009,” U.S News and World Report, February 6, 2009; “Krispy Kreme’s future might not be so sweet,” WRAL, March 9, 2009.

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