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. From 2012 to 2019 the research was supported by Stanford University, including the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Policy Implementation Lab. In 2019, the project received funding from the National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE), a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence. The project relies primarily on research assistance from Stanford undergraduate and graduate students.
MMP by the numbers
Frequently Asked Questions
What are “maps,” and how do I read them?
The Mapping Militants Project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among interconnected groups and show how those relationships change over time. Most maps focus on violent non-state actors in conflicts in specific regions or countries. The Global Al Qaeda and Global Islamic State maps are international in scope, as they document the connections among dozens of militant organizations operating in a variety of geographical areas. The transnational right-wing extremism map shows the links among violent groups with far-right ideologies, such as white supremacism, Neo-Naziism, and accelerationism. 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
- Name Changes
- Size Estimates
- Geographical Locations
- Ideology and Goals
- Political Activities
- Targets and Tactics
- Major Attacks
- 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.
Violent extremist groups on the far right pose a unique challenge for researchers, in that their organizational structure is often informal and amorphous. Their membership is fluid and shifting. It can be difficult to identify leaders. We include such groups because they pose an increasing security risk, particularly for the United States homeland, and their transnational linkages are growing.
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