The Islamic State and Territory: How the Caliphate Fulfills the Group’s Destructive Purpose



McGinty, Mary Lauren

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This study investigates the use of territory by the Islamic State (IS). Specifically, it looks at how the IS utilizes the caliphate to fulfill their destructive purposes as a terrorist group. Previous literature highlights the destructive actions of the IS but neglects to show the relation between those actions and the holding of territory. In addition, most literature strictly focuses on the religious ideology of the IS and how that is the most destructive component of the group. Through the use of qualitative coding and quantitative data collection, this study explored the framing of the caliphate in relation to the height of the IS and the caliphate. Sixty news articles were analyzed and coded into various categories highlighting the primary concern surrounding the IS and/or the caliphate. Quantitative data from various data programs was collected to show the level of destruction (through casualties, displaced persons, and kidnappings) throughout the years of the Islamic State. The analysis shows that, through the methodology used, the IS is perceived to create more destruction during the years they held territory. Through their use of physically holding territory, an ancient reinterpretation of Islam, and economic uses of the caliphate, the IS is able to invoke more devastation across the globe. Additionally, the Islamic State’s ideology and role of the caliph also contribute to their fulfillment of their violent goals. However, this study shows that the caliphate is a primary source of destruction and helps the IS attain their goals as a terrorist group. Implications for this study involve possible recommendations for policymakers and counterterrorism officials. Future strategies, involved in combatting the IS, should to focus on their use of territory and restricting access to lands previously held by the group. In addition, approaches should be multi-faceted and analyze the IS through a combination of frameworks. Overall, the IS and their use of the caliphate helps them attain their violent and devastating goals across the globe.



Territory, Terrorism, Islamic State, Caliphate