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ISIS' Virtual Puppeteers

How They Recruit and Train "Lone Wolves"

Pictures showing an ISIS Command and Control Center in Syria before and after it was struck by bombs dropped by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet, September 23, 2014. U.S. Department of Defense Handout / Reuters

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has taken a beating on the battlefield throughout 2016. U.S. officials estimate that the group has lost half of its territory in Iraq and roughly 20 percent in Syria, including key supply routes from Turkey that had been vital to the group’s inflow of foreign fighters. Although ISIS’ territorial holdings continue to dwindle, the threat it poses does not. ISIS has proven itself to be an endlessly adaptive organization, utilizing creative measures to shape-shift in its response to external pressures. As the group’s territory shrinks and its leadership is picked off by U.S.-led airstrikes, ISIS will rely increasingly upon its “virtual planners”—members who operate in the dark spaces of the Internet—to inspire and coordinate attacks abroad.

Since at least early 2015, ISIS has been planning high-profile operations against the West, with Europe standing directly in the crosshairs. As has

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