50 percent pay cut: a tough break for ISIS fighters

According to documents leaked from inside ISIS, the terrorist organization has cut the salaries of its jihadists by half. Experts say the deduction can be attributed to recent victories by the US-led coalition. 

ISIS website
In this photo released on April 25, 2015, by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, young boys known as the "lion cubs" hold rifles and Islamic State group flags as they exercise at a training camp in Tal Afar, near Mosul, northern Iraq.

Violent jihad, it turns out, is a rough business. According to documents leaked from inside the Islamic State (IS) group, all IS fighters have reportedly had their salaries cut by half.

Additional information from the Congressional Research Service indicate that IS soldiers earn between $400 and $1,200 a month, CNN Money’s Jose Pagliery reports. The jihadists receive a $50 stipend for their wives and $25 for every child. Even the lowest paycheck of $400, however, is more than what the Iraqi government offers.

First published and translated by Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a scholar at the Middle East forum and an expert on Islamic State, the documents don't reveal the reason for the pay cuts.

“On account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all [jihadists] by half, and it is not allowed for anyone to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position,” the document said. It was signed by Abu Muhammad al-Muhajir, IS's treasury minister.

The message goes on to say that the fighters will continue to receive pay and provisions on a biweekly basis.

While the first half of the memo uses quotes from the Quran to downplay the importance of wealth, the document doesn’t explicitly suggest any kind of financial hardship. But experts have reason to infer that wartime pressure is taking a toll on the internal and external operations of IS.

For instance, Operation Tidal Wave II – a US-led bombing campaign targeting IS oil fields and supply lines in western Iraq and eastern Syria – has definitely strained the group's funds. Though IS makes most of its money from taxes on populations under its control, a significant portion of its earnings comes from oil resources.

Before the bombings began, American officials estimated that Islamic State was making $2 million every day from its oil facilities. According to the US Treasury, IS was raking in $40 million every month in early 2015. Such is not the case now.

IS also earns its sustenance from donations, extortion, kidnapping ransom, bank robberies, and sales of antiquities. But like every governmental body, it has struggled with maintaining a budget. Beyond paying their fighters, the group's leaders must pay for infrastructure, including the salaries of civilian personnel, technicians, and engineers. IS even subsidizes the cost of bread, experts say.

But victories for the US-led coalition are making financial logistics harder and harder for the extremist group. In addition to the attacks on oil, American air strikes have also gone straight to the cash. Two US defense officials told CNN that the military recently bombed a building in central Mosul, Iraq, destroying “millions” worth of cash.

Mr. Tamimi obtained the documents from sources inside Raqqa, the Syrian city which IS now considers its capital.

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