By Victor Comras
There is a common misperception that terrorism can be carried out on the cheap and that small terrorist cells simply raise their funds locally making it extremely difficult to detect. This seems to be the thesis of a number of recent articles, including one a few days ago in the Washington Post. They maintain that terrorist groups simply avoid bank transactions, making current financial controls inutile. Nothing could be further from the truth! Terrorism financing is still big business, and the sophisticated money laundering and counter-terrorism financing oversight and regulatory mechanisms we have in place remain essential tools in combating terrorism. In fact, they are among our most useful tools in identifying the sources of terrorist funding and holding them accountable, and for tracking down the terrorist cells themselves. We need to intensify these measures and have them replicated in Europe and internationally in order to place similar restraints on terrorist funding sources overseas.
Terrorist attacks certainly have not abated since 9/11; neither has the flow of funds that support well organized terrorist organizations. While the cost of funding certain terrorist attacks might appear quite small, the fact is that indoctrinating, recruiting, motivating, training and equipping the terrorists that carry out such attacks is very expensive. Keeping Bin Laden, Zawahiri and their al Qaeda cohorts armed, fed, well protected, and hidden somewhere in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier region is not an inexpensive operation; nor has the resurgence of the Taliban and its reorganization and re-armament come without great expense. Al Qaeda’s continuing operations in Iraq and its further extension into Somalia, Sudan and other areas of Africa also requires substantial funding. To this must be added the money it takes to support the military and terrorist wings of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and so many other terrorist groups operating in areas of Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and other areas of the Middle East. In fact, with terrorist cells operating as well in South and Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Europe, and in North and South America, terrorism financing now involves a global reach
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