Counter-Terrorism: Following The Money


August 5, 2008: Counter-terrorism organizations won't release details of their attacks on terrorist financing, but from bits of information that have leaked out, it is having an impact. In Iraq, Islamic terrorists have been spending more time engaged in criminal operations, in order to raise money for terror attacks. This has been a trend over the last two years. Before that, lots of cash was being provided by former members of Saddams government, inside and outside Iraq. But that money was soon gone, either because it was spent, or because the donors thought better of financing a terror campaign that appeared, even then, to be going nowhere. Much of the Iraq violence was carried out by mercenary Iraqis, who would assemble, emplace and detonate roadside bombs, but only for a fee. As these activities became more dangerous (UAVs equipped with night vision, and Hellfire missiles) the fees demanded increased, and eventually the Sunni Arab terror groups couldn't afford it all.

A less well publicized reason for Islamic terrorists running out of cash was the Saudi Arabian crack down on fund raisers. Many wealthy (or simply generous) Saudis had long contributed to "Islamic charities" which everyone knew were also supporting Islamic terrorist groups. Until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Saudis resisted repeated calls from the West to crack down on the terrorist fund raising in Saudi Arabia. These charities, and Islamic terrorism , was simply too popular. But once U.S. troops overthrew Saddam, al Qaeda ended its long time truce with the Saudi government and launched a series of terror attacks. Al Qaeda was defeated in a two year long campaign, because the Saudi population did not support Islamic terrorism in their own back yard. Part of this counter-terror effort was a long overdue effort to shut down the terrorist fund raising. This is still going on, and so far, a lot less cash is getting to the terrorists from Saudi sources.

In Southeast Asia, the money drought had a more noticeable impact on Indonesian and Filipino terrorists, who were more dependent on the foreign cash. Several couriers have been captured, and the media publicized the fact that these guys were not just carrying messages back and forth, but were also moving cash from the Persian Gulf. A recent courier capture found only messages from Indonesian Islamic terror groups, pleading for cash. The terrorists were broke, being hounded by the police, and were unable to get a major effort going without money (for bomb materials, bribes and living expenses for the terrorists.) Nothing was mentioned about who the courier was going to see.

The counter-terrorist organizations that chase after the money men are understandably quiet about who their suspects are. In Saudi Arabia, some of the donors are prominent citizens, in a country where Islamic conservatism is considered a good thing. This is the case throughout the Persian Gulf, and for a long time, it was believed that by leaving the terrorism bankers alone, the terrorists would not operate in the area. The 2003 decision to launch terror attacks in Saudi Arabia was not unanimous among the terrorist elite, but now the campaign has acquired a life of its own, despite the failure to hit any important targets. And now, Saudi police come down hard, although discreetly, on local donors who are, despite their piety, aiding Islamic terrorism. The donors justify their continued contributions because they believe the money is being spent to kill infidels (non-Moslems). But in fact, that is rarely possible, and most attacks these days manage to kill Moslems as well.

The U.S. has also had increasing success in shutting off terrorist access to the international financial network. This is arcane stuff, but it forces the terrorists to be creative, and resort to more risky methods for  moving cash.

In Afghanistan, the Islamic terrorists have found a friend in the heroin business. By getting in involved in the production and movement of heroin (to adjacent countries, and eventually the West), the Taliban and al Qaeda have a source of cash, as well as some Islamically correct recreation (while Islam specifically forbids alcohol, it is a little vague on stuff like heroin, which didn't exist when the Koran was written). Over the last thousand years, Islamic radicals have used drugs to inspire the faithful. Technically, anything that "intoxicates" is forbidden, but Islamic radicals get into arguments over whether some drugs inspire, rather than "intoxicate." This sort of thing is just another reason for mainline Moslems to reject al Qaeda. Unfortunately, mainline Moslems are not as willing to fight and kill for their beliefs as al Qaeda is. So while many Moslem clerics actively preach against the use of heroin and cocaine by the faithful, they are often less inclined to criticize how Islamic radicals pay their bills.



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