Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ISIS Cuts Fighers' Pay In Half

A bombing target in ISIS-occupied Syria. Source:

The terrorist group ISIS has been in the news a lot lately, especially as they continue to grow and recruit new militant fighters.

One key factor that makes fighting with ISIS so appealing to the people who join is the salary. According to the Congressional Research Service, ISIS soldiers can earn the equivalent of $400 to $1,200 every month, or $4,800 to $14,400 a year. That may not seem like much, but considering that the average yearly income in Iraq is only $4,000, it's not a bad deal.

Late last year, the ISIS government issued an internal message saying that "it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahideen by half." The document was recently leaked and publicized by several news sources.

We believe that the United States-led coalition's bombing campaign is partially responsible for this massive pay cut, as the main targets have been oil equipment (trucks, storage, refineries). Recently, the campaign also targeted a building that served as sort of a bank for ISIS, holding millions of dollars worth of cash. Seeing that ISIS is forced to cut its fighters' pay could be a sign that these bombing runs are actually working.

I think that targeting ISIS's sources of money is a strategically good move, and will help weaken ISIS's recruiting abilities. Many of the fighters are joining ISIS to have money to send home to their families or for other financial reasons. However, I don't believe that this sort of military action is sustainable. Bombing ISIS-occupied territory may aid their fearmongering efforts in scapegoating the West. Additionally, ISIS will figure out other sources for money - they already get most of their finances by taxing citizens of occupied territory. Continuing to bomb them will become less and less effective.

What do you think? How big of an effect do you think this pay cut will have on ISIS's growth? Should the U.S. and other countries continue the current bombing campaign, or are there better, more sustainable options for the future? How large of a role should the U.S. try to play in combating ISIS?,-less-work.aspx


Emily Shen said...

While this looks to be hopeful, I would be wary of saying we are anywhere close to victory. Based on the nature of the job, I don't think ISIS fighters do it for the money. In addition, I read on Quora that in German author and politician Jürgen Todenhöfer's book "My Journey into the Heart of Terror: Ten Days in the Islamic State," Todenhöfer also claims that the base income received by ISIS fighters is also supplemented by 80 percent of whatever they loot.
So maybe some of the most negative situations that can come from this pay cut:
— ISIS will still have recruits, but now its recruits will for sure NOT do it for the money and be even more motivated by an inner desire to serve
— Existing and future ISIS fighters will do more looting and pillaging to supplement their income
— The downpour of bombs will anger more and turn them into ISIS recruits

Elliot Quan said...

Yeah, I'm not seeing the major impact here on the fighters themselves - although perhaps bombing their financial resources could diminish their ability to acquire supplies/arms (if they didn't just steal or loot them anyways). Since oil is ISIS's biggest resource (CNN), the US/coalition has been bombing such targets (which has led to oil no longer being their biggest source of revenue), but now the problem seems to lie with the significant amount of territory they control in Iraq and Syria, which leads to a significant amount of extortion. It's scary how developed their economy has become - it makes me wonder how exactly we're going to deal with them, given that nobody really cares for another war. At this point, many of ISIS's supporters are only supporters because they lack a better alternative, and at this point, we don't seem to have one. I suppose we can keep bombing key targets and making dents in their armor, but it's going to take a lot more than that to put an end to ISIS.