As prepared for delivery
I am grateful to be invited to speak here at the
Center for a New American Security. In
just a few years, CNAS has established itself as a leader in fostering thoughtful
discussion and cutting-edge scholarship on critical security issues confronting
the United States, and I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to that
conversation this evening.
Before I turn to the focus of
my remarks, let me say a few words about the situation in Ukraine. We are
deeply concerned and are closely monitoring ongoing developments in Ukraine.
As the President has said,
Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity is
a breach of international law. In the coming days, we will continue
to monitor Russian actions in Ukraine and respond appropriately. We are
looking into a wide range of options, including sanctions and ways to increase
Russia’s political and economic isolation.
We are also working to assist the Government of Ukraine. In fact,
Secretary Lew announced earlier today that we have been working with
international partners to develop an assistance package that will help the
Ukrainian government implement the reforms needed to restore financial
stability and return to economic growth. We are working with Congress and
our international partners on $1 billion in loan guarantees aimed at helping
insulate vulnerable Ukrainians from the effects of reduced energy
subsidies. As part of this package, we also hope Congress approves IMF
reforms, which would support the Fund’s capacity to lend additional resources
to Ukraine. Of note, Ukraine has identified combatting corruption and
recovering stolen assets as a pressing need and our assistance package seeks to
support this goal, among others.
The focus of my remarks this evening will be
the evolving landscape of terrorist financing, the challenges we face, and the steps
we are taking to meet these challenges.
As this audience knows, since the attacks of September
11, the United States has undertaken an unprecedented effort to protect the
homeland and our interests and allies abroad from the scourge of terrorism, and
as part of this effort has focused as never before on detecting, disrupting,
and dismantling the financial infrastructure of terrorist organizations.
Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial
Intelligence (TFI) has been at the forefront of this effort. By developing and deploying innovative
financial tools, and marshaling the support of the domestic and international
private sectors, multilateral fora, foreign regulators, and foreign ministries,
we have made it harder than ever for terrorists to raise, move, store, and use
There is no doubt that we have made significant
progress over the past 12 years. Most
dramatically, al-Qa’ida today is far less well-funded than it was a dozen years
ago. But I am not here to recount our
successes; rather, I want to describe the new challenges we face and open a dialogue
on how we should adapt to address them.
Because despite our progress, one need only open a newspaper to see that
terrorist threats and, more specifically, terrorist financing threats, persist.
The Dollars and Cents of Terrorist Financing
Just as we are focused on undermining the
financial wherewithal of terrorist organizations, terrorists, of course, also remain
focused on their finances.
discovered documents belonging to al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb
(AQIM) perfectly illustrate the almost mundane financial reality for many of
these groups. Among the documents found
were receipts, scribbled on post-it notes: $6,800 for “workshops,” $330 for
ammunition and $1.80 for a bar of soap.
Documents recovered during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound
in Pakistan illustrate the same reality.
Meticulously kept records detailed expenditures on everything from
salaries for fighters and their families to floppy disks, and even included
receipts for explosives.
A focus on finances has also provided
propaganda value for terrorists. In
2010, the English language magazine of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s
(AQAP) featured a cover image with the figure “$4,200” superimposed over a UPS
plane, the target of a failed plot to use bombs concealed in printer cartridges
to destroy the aircraft in U.S. airspace.
The message AQAP was trying to send was
clear: By its accounting, attacking the United States could cost as little $4,200.
On one level, that message is borne out in
reality. The recent attack on the
Westgate Mall in Nairobi reportedly cost less than $5,000 to execute, and the materials
used in the Boston Marathon bombings last spring reportedly cost about $500.
But while organizing a single terrorist
attack may be relatively inexpensive, managing a terrorist organization capable
of conducting an attack – particularly a sophisticated, mass casualty attack on
the scale of 9/11 or the Westgate Mall – remains costly, complex, and
funds are required to finance each component of the terrorist life cycle: communications,
logistics, recruitment, salaries, training, travel, safe havens, bribes, weapons
acquisition, payments to the families of the deceased fighters, and support to
other groups. This is especially true
for terrorists who aspire to strike from a distance, and even more so to strike
targets that are well-defended. Their sizable
operating budgets and global supply chains create vulnerabilities for even the most
nimble and methodical terrorist group.
We focus our
efforts on exploiting these vulnerabilities by severing terrorist financing and
support. To do so effectively requires a
nuanced understanding of the different methods terrorists use to raise and move
funds so that we can best tailor our efforts, and try to stay one step ahead of
From Global to Local: How Terrorists Raise
Externally Generated Capital: State Sponsors,
Deep Pocket Donors, and Charities
Now traditionally, terrorist groups relied on
a variety of external funding sources to meet their needs and had comparatively
easy access to the global financial system to move and store their funds. It was a rather simple system: Terrorist
groups, appealing to the misbegotten sympathy of foreign states, organizations,
and individuals alike, collected contributions to fund their activities, and
then placed those funds into the financial system, taking advantage of
unwitting and poorly defended financial institutions.
Over the past decade, powerful financial
sanctions at the national and international levels, coupled with close
cooperation among governments and the private sector, have helped combat these traditional
methods of terrorist financing. Focusing
on the potent combination of legal risk and reputational risk has proven
Efforts to enhance financial transparency have
also made it harder than ever for terrorists and other illicit actors to exploit
the international financial system. At
the core of these efforts is the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF),
the inter-governmental body that sets the international standards for
anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT)
safeguards and works for their global adoption and implementation. Through a peer review process to evaluate
compliance with its AML/CFT standards, the FATF has been extraordinarily
successful in improving global capacity to combat the full range of illicit
financial activity, including terrorist financing.
Turned away by banks and other reputable
financial institutions, terrorist groups have increasingly turned to less
regulated channels – including hawaladars, exchange houses, and cash couriers –
to transfer funds. None of this is new,
of course, but these channels are decidedly less effective than transacting
through the global financial system. Using
these alternative transfer mechanisms carries greater transaction costs; higher
risk of loss and theft; logistical complications – cash is bulky and heavy; and
its own legal risk, as terrorists are forced to navigate border controls to
transfer funds. These mechanisms also
require terrorist groups to rely on more people and larger networks than simple
wire transfers, making these financing channels and the terrorists who stand to
benefit from them more vulnerable to discovery.
While improved international
counter-terrorism cooperation and steadily improving implementation of financial
transparency standards have forced terrorist groups to alter their funds transfer
patterns and diversify their revenue sources, some of the traditional fundraising
and transfer practices persist and still require our attention.
it should come as no surprise to anyone that states continue to fund terrorism.
remains the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, planning terrorist
attacks, providing lethal aid, and delivering hundreds of millions of dollars
per year in support to extremist groups across
the globe. Hizballah, for
example, has received significant monetary payments from Iran to fund the
group’s activities in support of the brutal Asad regime. And during
the past several years, Iranian weapons shipments, reportedly destined for Shia
militants in Bahrain and Huthi rebels in Yemen, have been interdicted by local
is worth noting that while we continue our negotiations with the Iranians
concerning their nuclear program, we will not let up one iota in our efforts to
disrupt Iran’s support for terrorism. Just
a few weeks ago, we announced designations of several entities and individuals
tied to Iranian terrorist activity, including a number of Qods Force officers
operating in Afghanistan.
fact, the success of our unprecedented Iranian sanctions regime – including
sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and Iran’s ability to sell its oil
– has had the collateral benefit of squeezing Tehran’s ability to fund terrorist
groups such as Hizballah. So as we continue
to vigorously enforce our nuclear-related sanctions over the next six months,
we expect the financial screws on Iran to tighten even more.
distressingly, Iran is not the only state that provides financial support for
notably, Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years
openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional
stability. Press reports indicate that
the Qatari government is also supporting extremist groups operating in
Syria. To say the least, this threatens
to aggravate an already volatile situation in a particularly dangerous and unwelcome
With new leadership in Doha, we
remain hopeful that Qatar – a country that in other respects has been a
constructive partner in countering terrorism – will continue to work closely
with us to oppose and combat those who adhere to the warped and murderous
ideology of Hamas and al-Qa’ida.
Meanwhile, other traditional means of funding
terrorist groups, such as deep-pocket donors and charitable organizations, have
experienced a resurgence of late.
Al-Qa’ida still looks to these tried and true methods to raise
funds. Since early 2012, senior
al-Qa’ida leaders in Pakistan have raised millions of dollars from deep pocket
donors. They receive the majority of
their funds from Gulf-based sympathizers, followed by supporters based in Pakistan
Nevertheless, al-Qa’ida is currently experiencing financial
hardship. The death of several key
religious and financial leaders in Pakistan along with increased scrutiny of
the group’s Iran-based facilitation network – another target of our recent
designation activity – have degraded its ability to move and manage funds.
Al-Qa’ida’s financial strain is also the result of critical bilateral
cooperation. Our partner Saudi Arabia
has made great progress in stamping out al-Qa’ida funding sources within its
borders. Still, we have more work to do with
the Saudis to prevent other groups, such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e
Tayyiba (LeT), from accessing sympathetic donors in the Kingdom.
terrorist financing sources have also helped fuel the ongoing conflict in Syria. Over the past few years, charitable
fundraising networks in the Gulf have collected hundreds of millions of dollars
through regular fundraising events held at homes or mosques and through social
media pleas. These networks then use
couriers, wire transfers, hawalas, and exchange houses to move those funds to
Syria, often to extremists.
much of the private fundraising in the Gulf related to Syria is motivated by a
sincere and admirable desire to ease suffering, and the funds are used for legitimate
humanitarian purposes. The Asad regime’s
ongoing brutality in Syria has led to a dire humanitarian crisis – certainly
the most pressing in the world today – and the need for humanitarian relief is
number of fundraisers operating in more permissive jurisdictions – particularly
in Kuwait and Qatar – are soliciting donations to fund extremist insurgents,
not to meet legitimate humanitarian needs. The recipients of these funds
are often terrorist groups, including al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusrah
Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the group formerly
known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).
influx of funds to these groups in Syria poses a serious challenge. Apart from their highly destabilizing role in
the ongoing conflict there, these well-funded
and well-equipped groups may soon turn their attention to attacks outside of
Syria, particularly as scores of newly radicalized and freshly trained foreign
recruits return from Syria to their home countries.
confront this challenge, we are closely tracking the movement of funds to Syria,
especially – but not only – funds coming out of the Gulf. And we have already targeted and applied
sanctions against several key fundraisers, extremist leaders, and terrorist organizations.
We are also actively supporting our
partners throughout the region, including the Saudis and the Turks, in their
efforts to stem the tide of funding to extremists operating in Syria.
there are countries in the region that could be doing much more. Our ally Kuwait has become the epicenter of
fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria.
A number of Kuwaiti fundraisers exploit the charitable impulses of unwitting
donors by soliciting humanitarian donations from both inside and outside the
country, cloaking their efforts in humanitarian garb, but diverting those funds
to extremist groups in Syria. Meanwhile,
donors who already harbor sympathies for Syrian extremists have found in Kuwait
fundraisers who openly advertise their ability to move funds to fighters in
we congratulate the Kuwaiti Government on steps it has taken recently to
enhance its capacity to combat illicit finance, such as enacting a new law outlawing terrorist financing, we urge
the Kuwaitis to do more to effectively stem the flow of money to
There have been some encouraging
conversations recently, but the appointment of Nayef al-Ajmi to be both
Minister of Justice and Minister of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) and Islamic Affairs
is a step in the wrong direction.
Al-Ajmi has a history of
promoting jihad in Syria. In fact, his image
has been featured on fundraising posters for a prominent al-Nusrah Front
financier. And following his
appointment, the Ministry of Awqaf announced it would allow non-profit
organizations and charities to collect donations for the Syrian people at
Kuwaiti mosques, a measure we believe can be easily exploited by Kuwait-based
As the Kuwaitis have been reminded
recently, we are committed to helping them redouble their efforts to counter those
collecting funds for terrorists while ensuring that legitimate charitable
donations ease the suffering of the Syrian people. But the Kuwaitis must understand that the
unregulated funding of extremists does more to destabilize the situation in
Syria than to help the Syrian people.
this flow of funds is particularly challenging in an era when social media
allows anyone with an Internet connection to set himself up as an international
terrorist financier. We see this
activity most prominently in Kuwait and Qatar, where fundraisers aggressively
solicit donations online from supporters in other countries, notably Saudi
Arabia, which have banned unauthorized fundraising campaigns for Syria.
fundraising networks in Qatar, for instance, increasingly rely upon social media
to solicit donations for terrorists and to communicate with both donors and
recipient radicals on the battlefield.
This method has become so lucrative, and Qatar has become such a
permissive terrorist financing environment, that several major Qatar-based
fundraisers act as local representatives for larger terrorist fundraising
networks that are based in Kuwait.
should be no doubt that while we remain committed to working with countries such
as Kuwait and Qatar to confront ongoing terrorist financing, the U.S. will not
hesitate to act on its own to disrupt these terrorist financing networks. The long list of designated al-Qa’ida-linked fundraisers,
financiers, and functionaries is proof of that.
that vein, Treasury recently designated prominent terrorist financiers Abd
al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi (Nu’aymi) and Muhammad
`Abd al-Rahman al-Humayqani (Humayqani). Nu’aymi is a Qatar-based financier who secured
funds and provided material support for al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in Syria,
Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen. Humayqani is a Yemen-based fundraiser who used his status
in the charitable community as a cover for funneling financial support to AQAP.
Self-Generated Capital: Criminal Activity, Kidnapping
for Ransom, Territorial Control
During the past few years, a diminished al-Qa’ida
“core” has spawned numerous affiliates that recruit their own jihadists,
organize their own operations, and raise their own funds. Other terrorist groups, with loose or no
affiliation to al-Qa’ida, have also emerged, including, for example, the
recently designated terrorist organizations Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi,
Darnah, and Tunisia.
Many of these groups generate capital
locally, often in areas subject to little if any governmental control. The funds that are raised often stay essentially
where they started. Without the need to
move money, terrorists can avoid key international controls and, in so doing,
limit governments’ ability to track and disrupt their funding flows.
These groups also increasingly have turned
away from the traditional “donor” model of fundraising and rely more on
criminal activity for their financial support.
Just like their longstanding reliance on less-regulated
channels for transferring funds, terrorists profiting from criminal activity is
hardly new. From Hizballah’s cigarette
smuggling to the Taliban’s drug trafficking to the Haqqani network’s mafia-like
extortion schemes, terrorist groups have long turned to crime in their quest
And while the growing terrorist reliance on garden-variety
crime poses certain challenges, it has a potentially perverse upside too: Terrorist
funding networks that rely on criminal activity tend to alienate the
populations where they operate, draw the attention of traditional law
enforcement authorities, and are vulnerable to detection by well-designed,
well-implemented, and well-resourced AML/CFT programs.
Even so, the magnitude and scale of this crime-terror
nexus has reached new heights with the spread of kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR) as
a fundraising strategy.
Apart from state sponsorship, KFR is today’s greatest
source of terrorist funding and the most challenging terrorist financing
threat. Groups such as AQAP, AQIM, and
al-Shabaab continue to collect tens of millions of dollars from ransoms. And they are putting that money to work.
AQAP used ransom money it received for the return of European hostages
to finance its over $20 million campaign to seize territory in Yemen between
mid-2011 and mid-2012.
AQIM, which has provided funding for other
terrorist groups including Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, is believed to have obtained a €30 million ransom payment in
October 2013 for the release of four French hostages who worked for the French
government-owned nuclear firm Areva. The
French government has denied that any public funds were involved in the ransom
And in July 2013, al-Shabaab elements netted an approximately $5 million
ransom in exchange for the release of two Spanish hostages who were kidnapped
in Kenya in October 2011.
Meanwhile, other terrorist groups, such as
Boko Haram and its offshoot, Ansaru, also are increasingly turning to KFR to
finance their operations.
If we are going to successfully combat
terrorist financing – especially in North Africa and Yemen – we must do a
better job of preventing terrorist groups from successfully using kidnapping to
raise money. We have a multi-faceted
approach to do this.
First is prevention. We are working closely with international
counterparts to develop and implement best practices for governments and companies
to reduce the risk that their citizens and employees are kidnapped in the first
place. Some kidnappings could be
prevented if relatively easy precautions were taken to, in effect, harden the
target. We are exploring whether the
structure and terms of insurance for businesses operating in high-risk areas
could be modified to create additional incentives to implement these best
We know, however, that even the best efforts
at prevention are not failsafe. So we
are also working to reduce the underlying incentive to take hostages by
encouraging governments to refrain from making concessions to terrorists. Refusing to pay ransoms or to accede to other
terrorist demands is the surest way to convince potential hostage-takers that
they will not be rewarded for their crime.
This has been U.S. policy for many years. The U.S. government will not pay ransoms or
make other concessions to hostage-takers.
Although this may appear to be cold-hearted and is often agonizingly
difficult to sustain in practice, plain logic and long experience demonstrate
that this policy has led to fewer Americans being taken hostage, which protects
the safety and security of our citizens around the world. We are not alone in this approach; the UK,
for example, also steadfastly adheres to a no-concessions policy. Yet, despite the evidence indicating that
kidnappers prefer not to take hostages who are citizens of countries that
refuse to pay ransoms, not all countries have adopted this position.
We are working to change that and we are
making some progress. In its June
2013 Communiqué, the G-8 leaders, for the first time ever, unequivocally
rejected the payment of ransoms to terrorists.
And just a few weeks ago, the United Nations Security Council definitively
expressed its determination to secure the safe release of hostages without
ransom payments or political concessions.
As our position continues to gain traction internationally, we will work
hard to translate this emerging consensus from paper to practice.
When ransoms are paid, our final line of
defense is to deny the terrorist kidnappers the benefits of their crime. We work with governments and the private
sector to identify, arrest, and prosecute hostage takers, and, when possible,
to locate, freeze, and seize their assets.
This can be difficult because of geography and the often limited
resources of the jurisdictions where terrorist kidnapping activity is most
prevalent. But there have been some
In 2012, for example, Nigerian authorities
arrested an accountant for Boko Haram after he made several money transfers
that aroused the suspicion of bank officials. Those officials alerted security
agents, who took both the accountant and an associate into custody. At the time of his arrest, the accountant is
reported to have been carrying nearly $30,000 in cash, which he was in the
process of transferring.
Terrorist groups that control territory have
employed yet another self-generated revenue source – “taxing” local populations. Pioneered by groups such as Hamas and
al-Shabaab, this form of pseudo-sovereignty-based fundraising has spread to
other un- or under-governed territories around the world.
For example, despite losing control of the port of Kismayo, which was
its key revenue source, al-Shabaab continues to generate at least hundreds of
thousands of dollars per month, primarily through taxation and extortion, in its
remaining strongholds in southern Somalia.
Newer groups are also translating territorial
control into revenue. ISIL generates a
portion of its extortion-derived proceeds from Iraqi and Syrian oil resources,
while its al-Qa’ida-linked rival, al-Nusrah Front, has also exploited local
natural resources to raise funds.
Similarly, in 2012, prior to the French intervention in Mali, AQIM taxed
local residents in northern Mali to meet their funding needs.
Attacking locally-derived financial flows
that largely avoid the regulated financial system is, to be sure, a real
challenge. While we continue to utilize
our tools and authorities to expose and isolate many of these terrorist groups
and their facilitators, and while we continue our efforts to bring transparency
to those corners of the financial system that remain susceptible to abuse,
combatting locally-sourced capital requires some new approaches as well.
Coercing funding out of local populations
often foments bitterness within the very populations on which terrorist
organizations rely. While capitalizing
on this “rejection” dynamic is complex, we should use every tool available – from continuing to
highlight the way terrorists exploit local populations to focusing aid efforts
to compete with the services terrorist organizations provide – to turn this
resentment into financial strain for the occupying terrorist groups and to deny
them any mantle of legitimacy. We should also continue to provide robust
technical assistance and training to willing countries worldwide to increase
international financial transparency and improve global capacity to disrupt
The Critical Contribution of the Private Sector
As terrorist financing practices evolve, our tactics and
approaches to combat terrorist financing also must evolve. But one constant will be our need for collaboration
with the private sector.
At first glance, the
increasing use by terrorist groups of less-regulated, local, and criminal means
to raise and move funds might seem to imply a less prominent role for financial
institutions in combatting terrorist financing.
But the opposite is
true. The clues may be better masked and
the footprints fainter, but terrorist groups still systematically intersect
with the international financial system – albeit in more remote and obscured ways.
Complicit hawaladars still send wire
transfers and dispense cash to extremists with the aid of regulated financial
institutions. Corrupted exchange houses still
maintain bank accounts to launder illicit funds. And terrorist groups and their supporters
still establish front companies to “layer” their financial transactions and
Our recent actions directed at the Lebanese financial sector – beginning
with our action against the Lebanese Canadian Bank in 2011 and continuing with
our actions against two Lebanon-based exchange houses last year – illustrate well
how terrorists still depend on the international financial system, and how we
can contest their access.
Hizballah benefitted from the money laundering scheme that was the focus
of these actions. The scheme spanned
several continents and involved the laundering of hundreds of millions of
dollars in drug proceeds. The
perpetrators used bulk cash shipments, deposits into exchange houses with
accounts at Lebanese banks, and a trade-based money laundering scheme involving
wire transfers into the United States to purchase used-cars for export to West
Africa. At its core, this operation
relied upon the international financial system, including U.S. banks.
So, even in this new era of terrorist financing, banks must
continue to be vigilant partners in protecting the global financial system from
being infiltrated by terrorist groups and their facilitators. They can and must continue to be force
multipliers, including by helping us as we work to identify new typologies of
abuse, sharing that knowledge with their colleagues and the government, and
implementing effective risk management strategies to address current and forthcoming
terrorist financing threats.
We are looking to do our part to improve this sharing of
information by exploring changes to the rules governing information sharing among
financial institutions and between financial institutions and the government.
In particular, we are exploring ways to expand the use of
Section 314 (a) and 314 (b) of the USA PATRIOT Act to enhance the flow of
information from the government to financial institutions, and between
financial institutions themselves on the full spectrum of illicit financial
threats. The constantly evolving nature
of terrorist financing necessitates that we all have the most current and
complete understanding of the threat, without which threats could go
unidentified. The better the flow of
information with respect to these threats among institutions, and between
governments and financial institutions, the better our ability to address them
Confronting Morphing Tactics in Terrorist Financing
Perhaps the most important lesson gleaned
over the past 12 years is that terrorist financiers are consummate
opportunists. And, if the past is any
indication, we can expect to see further adaptation and evolution in how
terrorists raise and move capital over the next few years.
Innovations in traditional modes of terrorist
fundraising, particularly through the use of social media, will continue to
pose new challenges. As we have seen in
the context of Syria, fundraisers can now use social media handles instead of face-to-face
solicitations, and sympathetic donors
can bypass a risky rendezvous in favor of a simple and remote hashtag search.
While social media already has helped
terrorists raise funds, the emergence of so-called “crypto-currencies” or
“virtual currencies” could conceivably help terrorists move and spend funds. But like any other form of value transfer,
well-designed, well-implemented, and well-enforced regulation can combat the abuse
of these new payment methods. Guidance
issued by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on virtual
currencies is a good first step in ensuring transparency in this rapidly developing
field. We will, of course, continue to
monitor developments and adjust our regulatory framework accordingly. We will also continue to encourage our
international partners to do the same in order to stave off the illicit finance
threats of new, web-based value-transfer mechanisms.
Back in the tangible world, terrorist groups continue to forge new
alliances and revamp old approaches, and our efforts need to take account of
this as well.
Established terrorist groups are increasingly acting
as financial incubators for the next generation of extremists by providing
capital to newer groups. This malignant
form of mentorship can be seen in the tens of thousands of dollars that the
Egypt-based Muhammad Jamal Network received
AQAP in 2012, and the over $100,000 sent to the
Gaza-based Mujahidin Shura Council by AQIM in the past year.
And following the model of LeT, Hamas, and
Hizballah, we are also witnessing some terrorist groups complementing their
traditional splashy attacks with a “hearts and minds” appeal to gain popular
Ansar al-Shari’a groups in Tunisia and Libya,
and AQIM in Mali, for example, have expended greater effort toward winning over
local populations. Recent press reports have
highlighted AQIM receipts of $4 for medicine “for a Shiite with a sick child”
and $100 in financial aid for a man’s wedding. In Syria, al-Nusrah Front is currying local
favor by providing civilians with essential items like food, water, and
blankets. Leveraging social media to
boost social capital, the terrorist group showcased these efforts in an online video
featuring fighters delivering candy to young children and infant formula to new
The need to counter these disingenuous groups
cannot be minimized. Even legitimate
charitable activity that benefits a terrorist organization strengthens that
organization; this is why they do it. Although some of our international
partners may disagree with us, we must not allow terrorist organizations to use
the cover of seemingly legitimate charitable activity to mask and advance their
broader violent objectives.
Rather than focusing their efforts locally,
some other groups and individuals have aimed their charm offensive at
international audiences to provide a cloak of legitimacy for their terrorist
ambitions. Nu’aymi, the recently designated terrorist
financier, embodied this duplicity as he promoted humanitarian causes in
European capitals while surreptitiously providing money and material support to
al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen.
Despite his extensive terrorist financing
record, Nu’aymi has maintained his position as president of the Swiss-based
organization, Alkarama. We strongly urge Alkarama and other organizations that
have a relationship, directly or indirectly, with Nu’aymi to distance
themselves from this disgraced terrorist financier. Benign neglect
cannot provide cover for those advocating for human rights while underwriting
The dynamic nature of
terrorist financing presents new challenges, but also new opportunities. As we confront those challenges and exploit
those opportunities, we remain as dedicated as ever to deploy our tools – astutely
crafted, surgically targeted, and aggressively implemented – to protect our country
from those who would do us harm.
Thank you, again, to CNAS for inviting me to
speak this evening.