Blog Posts

A Prison Attack and the Death of its Leader: Weighing Up the Islamic State’s Trajectory in Syria

Abstract: On January 20, 2022, the Islamic State launched a complex assault on Hasakah’s Ghwayran prison, a place in which thousands of its fighters had been held since the ‘defeat’ of its territorial caliphate in March 2019. The attack was the first time that the group had directly targeted a major detention facility in Syria since losing its last significant territorial toehold in Syria, notwithstanding the consistent calls for prison breaks that have been uttered by its leaders during the last

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A “New” Islamic Emirate? The Taliban’s Outreach Strategy in the Aftermath of Kabul

As the Taliban’s forces swept across Afghanistan in July and August, their triumphalist—and fundamentally revolutionary—discourse became exponentially more pronounced. The moment it seized Kabul, however, the Taliban had to reorder its communications priorities. As Afghanistan’s new de facto government, it needed to expand on what its outreach strategists had been doing to date, i.e., setting out political aspirations, emphasizing military capabilities, and attacking the legitimacy of adversaries. Now, it had to take on a more complex strategic communications task: demonstrating

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Decoding Hate: Using Experimental Text Analysis to Classify Terrorist Content

This paper uses automated text analysis – the process by which unstructured text is extracted, organised and processed into a meaningful format – to develop tools capable of analysing Islamic State (IS) propaganda at scale. Although we have used a static archive of IS material, the underlying principle is that these techniques can be deployed against content produced by any number of violent extremist movements in real‑time. This study therefore aims to complement work that looks at technology‑driven strategies employed

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Mapping The Extremist Narrative Landscape In Afghanistan

On 29 February 2020, the Afghan Taliban signed a conditional peace agreement with the United States (US), a momentous occasion that was followed, six months later, by the inaugural round of negotiations between it and the Afghan government. This was the first-ever time the Taliban had officially engaged in talks with the Afghan government. Though this was an undeniably important step towards peace, the Afghan war has shown few signs of abating towards the end of 2020, with the Taliban

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