How ISIS Works

Place yourself in the shoes of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS, the mysterious terror group boss striking fear into the hearts of worldwide leaders.

Within the last few years you have avoided drone attacks and survived civil wars, unified militant groups in two countries underneath your banner, raised a jihadi army from around the globe, and seized a piece of land that stretches from Syria to Iraq.

Your new "Islamic State" is the size of the state of Pennsylvania; therefore, how will you govern it? You’ll compartmentalize.

New information from TRAC revealed that ISIS is placing governing structures into place that are going to rule the territories they conquer as the dust settles on the battlefield.

Studies shows how ISIS went from being purely a military force to creating a system that is able to offer basic services, like ensuring that food and gas are available, to its citizens.

From the cabinet and governors to the legislative and financial bodies, ISIS' bureaucratic hierarchy appears a lot like the ones of some of the countries in the West whose values it truly rejects -- if you take away its democracy and add a council in to consider who ought to be beheaded.

Baghdadi, his key deputies and Cabinet advisers make up the government’s executive branch, referred to as "Al Imara."

The deputies -- Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ali al-Anbari, Iraqi military officials serving underneath Saddam Hussein – oversee Iraq and Syria. ISIS probably has split the "Islamic State" governance into Iraqi and Syrian branches just to make it simpler to operate, according to the Southern Africa Director of TRAC, Jasmine Opperman.

According to Opperman, they view the caliphate as a single state, but there are actually two governments. She believes the split is solely administrative during this time. They do not want to be viewed as downplaying the caliphate, yet to make it simpler to govern they had to make a separation between Iraq and Syria.

The deputies give orders to the governors who are in charge of the different sub-states in Iraq and Syria under the control of ISIS, who then direct councils in the area on how they can implement the decrees of the executive branch on all things from recruiting to media relations to financial matters and policing.

Shura council – which directly reports to the executive branch -- includes the caliphate's religious monitor who is appointed to ensure that all of the local governors and councils are sticking with ISIS' interpretation of Islamic law.

According to Opperman, the murders of Western hostages Steven Sotloff, James Foley, and David Haines would’ve fallen underneath the Shura council's purview.

Opperman added that, let us say a substantial execution is set to take place, something that is going to get ISIS upon the front page of the paper. It can’t be accomplished without the approval of Shura council. Also, the Shura council has been given the power to censure leadership for running afoul of its version of Sharia law.

Opperman says that the Shura council does have the right to tell Baghdadi to go if he isn’t adhering to ISIS' standards of religion. It’d most probably never occur, yet the realization that it is possible is a sign of the council's prominence.

Baghdadi – who, at one time, was imprisoned by United States Iraq forces -- tends to have integrated the U.S. military's own counter-insurgency "Clear and Hold" mantra to win territory, set up control over the region, and get the native to assist in governing it.

According to Opperman, as time passes, ISIS is growing into a government whose political determinations can’t be differentiated from its military abilities.

Opperman adds that it is two sides of precisely the same coin. We have witnessed the military part, with the war cabinet directing brigades. However, now on the other part we are witnessing how ISIS has a desire to govern. These two processes inform each other.