About the Mapping Militants Project

General Background

The MMP research project traces the evolution of militant organizations and the interactions that develop among them over time. Findings are presented in interactive “maps,” which provide both (1) visual representations of how relationships among militant organizations change over time and (2) links to in-depth profiles of individual groups. The project provides uniquely accessible and clear genealogical information about violent extremist organizations that, combined with the detailed group profiles, is an invaluable resource to students, scholars, journalists, policy analysts, and others interested in violent oppositional organizations. The project helps identify patterns in, as well as causes and consequences of, violent extremist group evolution by describing and comparing the genealogy of different families of organizations. Genealogies are presented in interactive diagrams or “maps” that detail how groups form, split, merge, collaborate, compete, shift ideological direction, adopt or renounce violence, grow, shrink, and eventually decline over time.  The MMP research project also provides a database of detailed and documented group profiles. It develops computer software to assemble, organize, and display the profiles and genealogical information that researchers have produced.

 
From 2009 to 2012, MMP was funded by an award from the Social and Behavioral Dimensions of National Security, Conflict, and Cooperation competition, a joint venture between the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense.  Since then it has been supported by Stanford University.  The project relies on research assistance from Stanford undergraduate and graduate students. 

MMP by the numbers

112 Full Profiles of Militant Organizations
15 Regional "Maps"
712 Unique Relationships between Militant Organizations Recorded

What are “maps,” and how do I read them?

The Mapping Militants Project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. These maps largely focus on specific regions or countries, though the Global Al Qaeda and Global Islamic State maps attempt to document the connections among dozens of militant organizations operating in a variety of geographical areas. A complete list of our current maps can be found by scrolling through the project’s homepage.

Once users click on a map, they can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes) and adjust the time scale. The types of relationships (e.g., splits, merges, rivalries) among groups are recorded with different types of lines, which are described in a legend accessible to users in the toolbar at the top of the viewing page. Additionally, users can click on specific groups to learn more about them. The option to trace a specific group on the map allows users to observe the types of interactions that a specific organization has engaged in over its lifetime.

What information is included in the profile of a militant organization?

The Mapping Militants Project currently hosts over 110 complete profiles of both active and disbanded militant groups. These profiles are written according to a standard format to make comparison across cases possible. Profiles include the following sections:

  • Overview/Narrative Summary
  • Organizational Structure
    • Leadership
    • Name Changes
    • Size Estimates
    • Resources
    • Geographical Locations
  • Strategy
    • Ideology and Goals
    • Political Activities
    • Targets and Tactics
    • Major Attacks
  • Interactions
    • Designated/Listed as Terrorist Organization
    • Community Relations
    • Relationships with Other Groups
    • State Sponsors and External Influences

All of the information included in the project’s profiles is extensively cited. The Mapping Militants Project relies on open-source publications for its information, and sources are carefully chosen to maximize the veracity and reliability of our published profiles.

The project’s research assistants produce comprehensive profiles of each group based on available open-source information. However, it is important to note that acquiring information on covert organizations can be challenging. Some profiles may be longer than others, and some sections may be left blank if no reliable information is available.

Why are there two Pakistan maps?

When first documenting militant organizations in Pakistan, team members considered the distinction between UN-designated terrorist groups and other groups in the region to be important. Thus, two Pakistan maps were created. The “Pakistan” map records only UN-designated terrorist organization, while the “Pakistan — ALL” map chronicles a broader set of groups. Mapping Militants research assistants are currently working to combine the two maps into a single map for greater interpretability.

Who works on the Mapping Militants Project?

The Mapping Militants Project has been overseen by CISAC-FSI Senior Fellow Martha Crenshaw since its inception in 2009. Stanford Ph.D. candidates in Political Science have assisted with the oversight of the project and managed a team of graduate and undergraduate research assistants: Rachel Gillum, Kerry Persen, Iris Malone and Kaitlyn Robinson. The research assistants are engaged in a constant effort to update existing profiles and author new ones.

Can I download Mapping Militants data?

The Mapping Militants Project offers three main sources of data. First, each group profile page has been saved in PDF form and is available for download. Second, users can also download a comprehensive list of all groups documented on the Mapping Militants site. Finally, new data on the types of linkages between groups that are captured on the various maps is now available to users.

All of these data are available on the Mapping Militants Project’s public Box folder, located at https://stanford.box.com/v/mappingmilitants

How do I cite the Mapping Militants Project?

Each profile on our new website has a “How to Cite” section with citation directions. In general, the citation format is as follows:

Mapping Militant Organizations. “[Group name].” Stanford University. Last modified [month, year]. [Profile page URL]

 

For example, the citation for the project’s page on Boko Haram would read:

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Boko Haram.” Stanford University. Last modified June 2018. mappingmilitants.cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/profiles/boko-haram

How do I contact the Mapping Militants Project?

Users can communicate with the Mapping Militants team over email by sending a message to mappingmilitants@lists.stanford.edu

Core Faculty and Researchers

fsi_bio

Martha Crenshaw

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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fsi_bio

Martha Crenshaw

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science
Martha Crenshaw is a senior fellow at CISAC and FSI and a professor of political science by courtesy at Stanford. She taught at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, from 1974 to 2007. She has published extensively on the subject of terrorism. In 2011 Routledge published Explaining Terrorism, a collection of her previously published work. A book co-authored with Gary LaFree titled Countering Terrorism was published by the Brookings Institution Press in 2017.