Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005-2010

Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005-2010

Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005-2010

Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005-2010

Synopsis

Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005–2010 draws from more than 140 recently declassified documents to present a comprehensive examination of the organization, territorial designs, management, personnel policies, and finances of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), both predecessors of the Islamic State. These records paint a clear picture of ISI practices and standard operating procedures. Leadership consciously designed the organization not just to fight but also to build an Islamic state governed by the laws dictated by its strict Islamist ideology. ISI was a vertically integrated organization with a central management structure and functional bureaus. It sought to replicate these structures at multiple lower geographic levels across territory. Each geographic unit had substantial autonomy to pursue the group's strategic objectives but was required to send frequent reports to the group's leadership; the central organization used these reports to inform decisions and provide strategic guidance. ISI paid its personnel a wage that would draw true believers rather than opportunists; trained and allocated its membership with an eye toward group effectiveness; raised revenues locally through diversified sources; and was able to maintain itself, albeit at much reduced strength, in the face of a withering counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategy put in place by its opponents, starting in late 2006.

An analysis of the Islamic State predecessor groups is more than a historical recounting. The lessons from examining the group's history are useful for setting expectations about the strengths and vulnerabilities of the Islamic State and its ability to combat its opponents, designing a coordinated and effective campaign against it, and understanding why it might be able to survive such an effort and sustain itself in the future, albeit perhaps at a lower level of threat. Defeating the Islamic State will require persistence. The record of counter-ISI operations from 2006 through 2010 shows that military action and political accommodation can work together to degrade the group substantially, if not defeat it.

Excerpt

The group calling itself the Islamic State constitutes a dangerous challenge to numerous Middle Eastern countries and a terrorist threat to Western Europe and the United States. The level of danger might be new, but the group is not. The Islamic State is the successor organization to al-Qa‘ida in Iraq (AQI) and subsequently the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and it has continued AQI’s organizational, management, and financial practices. The fact that coalition forces, led by the United States; Awakening forces, reflecting the people of Iraq; and official security forces of the government of Iraq once successfully degraded the group suggests that it can be stopped again.

This report presents an analysis of foundations of the Islamic State, as reflected in more than 140 documents prepared by AQI and ISI. It represents the most comprehensive portrait available of the group, based on the group’s own records. ISI organized itself for statehood as early as 2006. It used a bureaucratic management model based on that of core al-Qa‘ida but replicated the model at different geographic levels. It also carefully demarcated the administrative boundaries of its jurisdiction. ISI paid its personnel a wage that would draw true believers rather than opportunists; trained and allocated its membership with an eye toward group effectiveness; raised revenues locally through diversified sources; and was able to maintain itself, albeit at much reduced strength, in the face of a withering counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategy put in place by its opponents, starting in late 2006.

This report is a joint effort among the RAND Corporation, the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University, and the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point. The CTC

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.