Attrition: Making A Living In the Caliphate


December 17, 2015: Iraq, Turkey and Jordan have all collected a lot of useful information on ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) by simply talking to former ISIL members who have deserted or managed to quit without being executed. Many of these former ISIL men are Syrians or Iraqis and it seems that most of them were in it for the money. This is because four years of civil war in Syria has wrecked the economy and left about half the working age population without any, not much employment. Thus if you have skills ISIL needs they will pay and pay more than you could make even if you had a job outside the new ISIL “caliphate) (eastern Syria and western Iraq). You have to be Sunni Moslem and at least pretend you believe in ISIL’s fundamentalist religious and social doctrine. That is not difficult for most rural Sunni Arabs in Syria and Iraq.

ISIL needs thousands of specialists to keep its new caliphate (Islamic empire) functioning. Construction, transportation and communications specialist can make up to a thousand dollars a month. Medical and technology specialists are paid even more. The less skilled workers can make at least a few hundred dollars a month. The least skilled are paid according to how many dependents they have. Thus the base pay of these workers is $50 a month (about what a construction worker would make outside of ISIL territory) plus $50 if you have a wife plus $35 for each child and $50 each for each parent being supported.

For those with military skills you can make over a thousand dollars a month. For those with bomb making skills or who can install and rig explosives for a suicide car or truck bomber the pay is even higher. Same for those with experience training and supervising suicide bombers. The suicide bombers are usually foreign volunteers, who are just provided living expenses. Most foreign volunteers get expenses plus up to $50 to become ISIL fighters and can earn more if they demonstrate talent for the work.

ISIL pays for all this (the basic payroll is over $5 million a month) with the loot they took when they captured Mosul in June 2014 and looted several large banks there for over half a billion dollars. Since then ISIL has brought in more income from smuggling oil out of the country and selling antiquities as well as taxing people they rule over. Non-Moslems they capture are often ransomed and there have even been instances of local Moslems forced to pay “special taxes” because ISIL was broke. In addition to payroll ISIL has to pay smugglers a lot to buy and bring in needed equipment like vehicles, communications gear, medical supplies. Also needed are spare parts for power and water treatment plants plus all sorts of gear required to run a county. Because of all these expenses ISIL is always looking for new ways to make money. They are having a difficult time doing this because many of the former ISIL employees report that they left because they had not been paid for months. Even when you are paid the growing shortages means that most items are much more expensive than it is outside the caliphate.


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