On Wednesday, American military officials announced that U.S.-backed Arab and Kurdish fighters in Syria have seized an enormous trove of data from various Islamic State strongholds, weighing in at over four terabytes in size. The data is now being analyzed by the United States and other anti-ISIS coalition nations.
“The material, gathered as fighters moved from village to village surrounding the town of Manbij, includes notebooks, laptops, USB drives, and even advanced math and science textbooks rewritten with pro-Islamic State word problems,” Reuters reports, citing U.S. military spokesman Col. Chris Garver.
Garver said it would “take a lot” to review all of the material and begin “connecting the dots and trying to figure where we can start dismantling ISIS.”
He said Arab and Kurdish fighters had been told to keep an eye out for useful intelligence materials because Manbij was known to be a “strategic hub for the Islamic State” and also played an important role in processing new ISIS recruits when they arrived in Syria.
Garver said that no “specific lines of connection” had thus far been established between the Manbij training area and recent ISIS terrorist attacks in Europe.
According to Stars and Stripes, about 10,000 individual items of interest to intelligence analysts, from thumb drives to notebooks, have been seized in the Manbij area. About half of the city’s territory has been recaptured from ISIS, a process complicated by the large number of booby traps and snipers deployed by the terror state.
Newsweek identifies the fighters who have been capturing this material as members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a “coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters,” supported by airstrikes and special forces operations from the U.S.-led coalition.
The Defense Department’s report on the Manbij seizures includes the interesting and creepy detail that ISIS has been rewriting school textbooks to express “high-end math and science” lessons with their preferred ideological language.
“These are textbooks on how to control the lives of everybody that’s inside it, how everyone should live their lives, and how if you don’t live your life that way, you’re an enemy of the state – of the so-called, self-proclaimed state,” Garber explained.
“This is unlike any other organization that we’ve fought before, and with this sort of totalitarian attempt to control everything, it poses a significant threat not just to the people inside, but everybody that they want to expand out to, as well,” he added.