ISIS Salaries

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

ISIS might seem like a ragtag group of terrorists, but it operates as a government that hands out biweekly paychecks:

ISIS soldiers earn between $400 and $1,200 a month, plus a $50 stipend for their wives and $25 for each child, according to the Congressional Research Service.


“On account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahideen by half, and it is not allowed for anyone to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position,” the ISIS’ government wrote in a memorandum.


ISIS makes most of its money by taxing its population. But one major source of pressure on ISIS’ finances is the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing runs. Airstrikes are taking aim at the ISIS oil business: blowing up oil trucks, storage tanks, mobile refineries and other oil field equipment.

The result? ISIS was making $40 million a month on oil alone in early 2015, according to the U.S. Treasury. Now, it’s making only a fraction of that, according to the State Department.

The airstrikes have also targeted ISIS money itself — literally. Last week, the United States military made an extremely unusual move, two U.S. defense officials told CNN. It dropped two 2,000-pound bombs on a building in central Mosul, Iraq, destroying a cache of cash worth “millions.”

Another source of financial pressure is the massive cost of operating a functioning government. ISIS provides public services and collects taxes. That means it has to pay for infrastructure and civilian employee salaries.
To keep the lights on, it pays highly skilled engineers and technicians, who can make upwards of $1,500 a month, according to an investigative team of UN researchers.
ISIS also subsidizes the cost of bread for the public, experts say.

Even in its most successful year, ISIS made an estimated $2 billion total, according to a CNNMoney review. But back in 2014, that’s what it cost just to maintain the portion of ISIS territory in Iraq — at least, that’s what the Iraqi government previously budgeted for that region, according to David S. Cohen, then the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

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