The United States is examining an immense collection of digital documents and other data captured from the Islamic State by U.S.-backed Syrian rebels fighting to retake the strategic city of Manbij, a military official said Wednesday.
The intelligence includes notebooks, laptops, and USB drives amounting to more than four terabytes of digital information that could potentially provide insight into ISIS operations.
Colonel Chris Garver, the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, told reporters that the U.S.-backed fighters, made up of Kurdish and Arab forces, collected the material as they traveled throughout villages surrounding Manbij.
"It is a lot of material, it is going to take a lot to go through, then start connecting the dots and trying to figure where we can start dismantling ISIS," Garver said in a news briefing.
The rebels also collected advanced math and science textbooks that had been rewritten to include pro-ISIS word problems.
ISIS has used Manbij as a strategic hub to train, indoctrinate, and dispatch foreign fighters.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter referred to the newly captured data while speaking to troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He told soldiers that Manbij is one of the final places linking the terrorist group’s self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, to the rest of the world.
"And there, we’re already beginning to gain and exploit intelligence that’s helping us map their network of foreign fighters," Carter said.
Garver said the U.S. has begun to understand how ISIS processes fighters once they migrate to Syria because of information collected around Manbij.
U.S. special forces last year captured seven terabytes of data in a raid against senior ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, which unveiled to the U.S. information about the militant group’s leaders, financing, and security.