Following the sweeping territorial gains and establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) in the summer of 2014, various nations and their governments have struggled to truly comprehend the group and its methods, particularly the ferociousness and rapidity through which the so-called caliphate was established and how it currently seizes, holds, and governs its territory. Sure, the airstrikes and arming of proxies is helping, but in order to defeat your enemy, you have to know them. And beyond the masks, beheading videos, and religious rhetoric, few truly do.

Here’s a look at seven ways ISIL uses terrorism as a tool, and the seven indisputable truths you must understand that explain why they use it.

1. Terrorism is all about politics.

ISIL, a terror group whose brutality, scope, and religious fervor clearly eclipses that of its al-Qaeda forbearers, serves as a prime example of how the political nature of terrorism—when properly applied—can serve as a highly devastating yet effective tool to implement rapid change in any environment.

ISIL’s use of terrorism in Syria and Iraq as a political tool is best understood as a worldly means effectively applied to reach a religious or divine end—one that is prophesied according to the sacred texts of Islam. So much for world peace or freedom living in that world.

Many nations, both Western and Arab, view ISIL not only as a threat to regional security, but as one that seeks to destabilize world order. This fact is evidenced by the growing anti-ISIL coalition, currently comprised of 12 core nations conducting near-daily airstrikes in Syria and Iraq to destroy the group, that views ISIL as an imminent threat.

However, in order to understand one’s enemy and to best conduct operations that are successful in destroying this Islamic hub of terrorism, it is critical for coalition nations to understand both ISIL’s desired end state and the vehicle through which the group will use its primary tool—terrorism—to achieve this end.

2. There’s a method to ISIL’s madness.