"We need to redouble our efforts to combat the financial support networks of al Qaida and the Taliban." That's the word from prepared remarks made by David Cohen, assistant secretary for terrorist financing, before the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday.
U.S. efforts have been quite effective at depriving terrorist organizations of money. Detailing the multi-pronged approach that the United States has taken to countering terrorist financing, Cohen explained the goal of his agency in simple terms:
"If we can deter those who would donate money to violent extremist groups, disrupt the means and mechanisms through which they transmit money, and degrade their financial support networks, we can make an extraordinarily valuable contribution to our national security."
Cohen highlighted the developing threat posed by the informal financial networks. While the government has been successful in preventing the abuse of the formal financial system, the unintended consequence has been the shift by terrorist groups into less transparent banking methods. Consequently, Treasury will expand its focus on the informal financial sector, including hawalas and bulk cash smuggling.
While the threats posed by the informal financial sector are not new, renewed interest in combating the abuse of these informal systems will go far in the war on terrorist finances. As Cohen explained, "money is an essential ingredient in their operations, every bit as important as fighters, weaponry, and extremist ideology."