The global criminal economy is one route that state-sponsored terrorism takes
Dan Darling calls it one of the best articles he has seen on the subject in the US press. David Kaplan’s well-researched article describes how jihadi groups worldwide are using tactics and proceeds from the world of organised crime to finance their operations.
But the story of terror financing is not complete without a consideration of the covert role of the world’s intelligence agencies. Pakistan’s ISI, for example, used the proceeds from drug smuggling, money laundering and CD piracy to fund jihadi groups. One of the most under-investigated angles of the 9/11 investigation are the links between the ISI’s Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmad and the Mohammed Atta — it was the ISI chief who wired funds into Atta’s account in the days preceding the attacks on America.
Terrorists are using the same underground infrastructure used by organised-crime syndicates to finance their operations. But they need not do so — like in the case of BCCI, they are capable of using legitimate channels to move funds around. So while targeting underground financial networks does help disrupt terrorist operations, it is incorrect to conclude, as Kaplan does, that al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups simply cannot exist in the absence of the global criminal economy. As long as the states that sponsor terrorism continue to do so, al-Qaeda and its ilk will continue to exist. Confronting states that sponsor terrorism is much easier than cleaning out the plumbing of the international financial system. For that reason it may deliver better and faster results.