AQI in Anbar was profitable enough to send substantial revenues out of the province in 2006.
AQI relied on extortion, theft, and black market sales to fund its operations in Anbar. AQI relied to a great extent on simple theft and resale, primarily of high-value items such as generators and cars, from Shi‘a transiting Anbar province and people cooperating with Coalition Forces (CF).
AQI needed large, regular revenue sources to fund its operations, but its administrative leaders did not hold much cash on hand.
Data on compensation practices and risk of death indicate that AQI members were not compensated for their dramatically higher fatality rate. Individual members of AQI made less money than ordinary Anbaris—AQI average annual household compensation was $1,331 compared to $6,177 for average Anbar households— but faced a nearly 50-fold increase in the yearly risk of violent death.
AQI compensation included monthly payments for members and their dependents, as well as monthly payments to the families of imprisoned and deceased members. These latter payments constituted a form of insurance unavailable to civilian Anbar households, but still resulted in lower risk-adjusted expected lifetime earnings. This is not to say that potential AQI recruits carefully computed their lifetime incomes. Rather, our results suggest that if AQI members were rational in their decisionmaking, financial rewards were not among the primary reasons for why they joined the group. Instead, other reasons must have been predominant to the point of being worth many years of forgone income and could have included ideological, religious, political, or nationalistic beliefs; tribal issues; matters of personal honor or revenge;
or the simple desire for notoriety.
Our best estimate is that, on average, an additional attack cost the group $2,700. This amount is equivalent to 40 percent of the average household income.