The U.S.-led effort to choke off financing for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is foundering, reports the Los Angeles Times. Setbacks at home and abroad have undermined the Bush administration’s highly touted counter-terrorism weapon. Some extremist groups have blunted financial anti-terrorism tools by finding new ways to raise, transfer, and spend money. In other cases, the administration has stumbled over legal difficulties and interagency fighting.
The most serious problems are fractures and mistrust within the coalition of nations that the U.S. needs to target financiers of terrorism and to stanch the flow of funding from wealthy donors to extremist causes. “The international cooperation and focus is dropping, the farther we get from 9/11,” said Michael Jacobson, a senior advisor in the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence until a year ago. “Some countries lack political will. Others just don’t have the basic capacity to govern their countries, much less create a viable financial intelligence unit.” Says former CIA official Robert Grenier: “It’s not as much that we’re not properly executing our strategy. It’s that the strategy is of limited utility in countering terrorism financing given the mechanisms that terrorists use.”