Leaked ISIS documents have revealed the group's sophisticated plans to build a legitimate state based upon its fundamentalist beliefs.
Discussing a diverse range of subjects, the documents state that ISIS has created departments for health, economy and education. They also reveal a military strategy involving child soldiers and plans for a military department with more capabilities than al-Qaida, The Guardian reports.
“Far from being an army of irrational, bloodthirsty fanatics, [ISIS] is a deeply calculating political organization with an extremely complex, well-planned infrastructure behind it," said George State University senior researcher Charlie Winter, who has seen the documents.
Military officials believe it is crucial the West pay attention to these revelations.
“If the West sees ISIS as an almost stereotypical band of psychopathic killers, we risk dramatically underestimating them," said retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led the military operation to destroy ISIS's predecessor, ISI, in Iraq from 2006 to 2008.
McChrystal compared ISIS' plans to other organized movements from history.
“It’s not a big departure from the works of Mao, the practices of the Viet Minh in Indochina, or other movements for whom high-profile actions were really just the tip of a far more nuanced iceberg of organizing activity," he said.
Former head of UK special forces Lt. Gen. Graeme Lamb said the West should particularly consider how ISIS repeatedly claims to be the only true representatives of the region's Sunni Arab Muslims in the documents.
“Seeing [ISIS] and the caliphate as simply a target to be systematically broken by forces other than Middle Eastern Sunnis ... is to fail to understand this fight," Lamb said. "It must be led by the Sunni Arab leadership and its many tribes across the region, with us in the West and the other religious factions in the Middle East acting in support. It is not currently how we are shaping the present counter-ISIS campaign, thereby setting ourselves up for potential failure.”