Will the international coalition be able to stop ISIS recruiting technocrats?

Monday، September 26، 2016
Will the international coalition be able to stop ISIS recruiting technocrats?

The military losses suffered by ISIS have recently increased and come in conjunction with international coalition forces and other parties intensifying their military strikes against ISIS sites in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, the organization appears to be gradually losing its ability to provide the human resources required to manage their economic assets and organize their financial revenues.

Providing adequate guarantees to secure elite technocrats and technicians has become more complicated in light of the rising intensity of military operations against ISIS sites, in addition to the decline in the group’s financial resources. These phenomena are slated to precipitate a scarcity of expert human resources due to greater pressure on the group from two sides. The first involves efforts to eliminate ISIS’s capacity to operate oil facilities, while the second has to do with their potentially having to double wage expenses in light of the unprecedented risks faced by fighters working in ISIS territory.

Declining Gains

For more than two years, ISIS has been able to conduct their political, economic, and media affairs on the lands under their control through a multi-faceted organizational job structure. This includes qualified individuals from a variety of professions engineers, accountants, doctors, and so on, in order to manage economic facilities such as oil fields and power stations under their control, in addition to organizing management of financial resources.

In order to bring in the human resources required, the organization adopted a very attractive promotional and financial policy which enabled them to recruit local fighters from Iraq and Syria as well as foreigners from approximately 100 countries worldwide.

Over the past few months, matters appear to be moving in a different direction. The issue of recruitment has become more complicated as the international coalition intensifies their air strikes on ISIS sites and Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia regain several Iraqi cities, most recently Al-Qayyarah. These operations led ISIS to lose 45% of territory under their control in Iraq as well as 16-20% of their lands in Syria.

ISIS has also lost several oil fields which used to guarantee 40,000-60,000 barrels of oil per day with profits ranging from $500-600m annually. But due to the decline in oil prices, ISIS’s oil revenues – their most important source of funding – are expected to drop to $250m for 2016 according to Daniel Glaser, Secretary for Terrorist Financing of the United States Treasury.

Indications of a Break

Alongside financial and military losses, obtaining human support has become more difficult for ISIS. This can be interpreted in light of several considerations:

1. A decline in recruitment: American estimations indicate that the flows of foreign fighters into Iraqi and Syrian territory have dropped from 2000 per month for the year 2015 to 200 during the first month of 2016. This was confirmed by US Major General Peter Gersten, Deputy Commander of Operations and Intelligence of the international coalition to fight ISIS. He added that the organization was fighting another problem simultaneously: increasing rates of foreign fighters fleeing from conflict areas.

2. Low salaries: At the start, ISIS was keen to provide attractive compensation in order to recruit technocrats and technicians to manage the affairs of the territories under the group’s control. In this regard, ISIS offered generous salaries for foreign recruits, and technocrats especially, amounting to $1200 per month, compared to $400 for local recruits. ISIS was not able to continue providing the same sums due to current financial pressures, and was forced to slash salaries by approximately half according to several estimates.

3. The phenomenon of returnees: As a result of the increasing severity of military operations and the decline in wages, more foreign recruits began fleeing back to their home countries as their incentives to stay in Iraq and Syria diminished.  This phenomenon also forms a risk to the security of these countries: these individuals have received extensive combat training and experience which could be used to implement terrorist attacks.

4. Targeting leadership: Since the first month of 2016, coalition forces expanded campaigns to liquidate major leaders of ISIS in a policy which the forces considered successful. The aim was to stop the momentum of ISIS’s media, financial, and military activities on the one hand, and at the same time, to incite anxiety and a lack of confidence within the group, which would push some personnel and members to flee outside the territories they control.

In this context, and in order to undermine the organization’s various capacities, at the end of August 2016 the American Department of Defense announced the death of ISIS spokesperson Abu Mohamed Al-Adnany in an air raid in the city of Al-Bab in Syria’s Aleppo governorate. Prior to this in May 2015, US Special Forces were able to kill Abu Yusuf, the organization’s financial and oil official.

A Variety of Pressures

It can be said that low supplies of human resources imposed greater financial pressures on ISIS, which may be summarized as follows:

1. Financial burdens: Limiting losses resulting from military attacks undertaken by the international coalition, both in terms of their losing territory or leaders, and their ability to recruit more foreigners, particularly those who were motivated to join in light of financial reasons more so than ideological ones. However, organizationally, ISIS made up for its loss of foreign fighters and workers by recruiting more human resources locally from the areas under their control, but this mechanism may only be utilized for so long. For this reason and at this time, in order to overcome the anticipated shortage in human resources, ISIS may be forced to pay more generous salaries to fighters and technicians in order to convince them to work in an environment characterized by heightened risk.

2. Disrupting economic establishments: According to Western predictions, ISIS will face new difficulties in producing oil and repairing oil wells due to the scarcity of engineers and technicians with experience in the oil industry. This will force them to rely on more primitive techniques for oil production and refinement, generating additional financial losses. This is one of the reasons relating to the international coalition targeting oil facilities, which led to a decrease in ISIS’s current oil production capabilities to approximately 10,000-30,000 barrels per day.

Overall, it can be said that ISIS is on the verge of adopting a new policy to attract human resources in order to overcome existing pressures. The main strength in this policy will involve attractive compensation along with utilizing more local human resources.

Keywords: TerrorismISISTechnocrats