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The Secret to ISIS Success: Bureaucracy and Middle-Managers

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sprang from a largely self-funded, corporation-style prototype whose resilience to counterterrorism operations was proven by the time Abu Bakr al Baghdadi assumed command in 2010.

The militant group Baghdadi inherited had in place a sophisticated bureaucracy that was almost obsessive about record-keeping. Its middle-managers detailed, for example, the number of wives and children each fighter had, to gauge compensation rates upon death or capture, and listed expenditures in neat Excel spreadsheets that noted payments to an “assassination platoon” and “Al Mustafa Explosives Company.” Income from the Sunni Muslim militants’ looting of Shiite Muslim-owned property was recorded as “spoils.”

By the time Baghdadi took charge, the group even had begun siphoning a share of Iraq’s oil wealth, opening gas stations in the north, smuggling oil and extorting money from industry contractors _ enterprises that Baghdadi would build on and replicate as he expanded operations across the border into Syria, ultimately breaking from his al Qaida roots and declaring himself emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

 

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