The central media apparatus of the Islamic State group is mis-reporting on the activities of its cells in central Syria. Rather than exaggerating their capabilities, something that it is conventionally assumed to be doing all the time, its Central Media Diwan appears either to be deliberately under-playing them, or, less likely, to be unaware of their full extent, possibly due to communication issues. Indeed, there is a significant disconnect between what the Islamic State is saying its cells in central Syria are doing versus what its adversaries are saying they are doing. This is starkly evident in the fact that the vast majority of attacks that pro-regime sources attributed to the Islamic State in the Badia, Syria’s expansive central desert region, in 2020 went entirely unclaimed by the group, according to data collected and cross-analyzed by the authors.
Based on the dynamics that characterize this data, which is supported by fieldwork inside Syria, it appears that this under-reporting on the part of the Islamic State, which has continued unabated into 2021, is at least partially intentional. This suggests that its covert network in Syria may be attempting to surreptitiously establish a strategic hub in this remote central region, something that could act as a rear base for a resurgence in the rest of the country and Iraq in years to come.