Recently declassified documents disclose the bureaucratic side of al Qaeda and the terrorist organization’s continuing struggle with funding.
The documents were captured in Afghanistan and Iraq and date from the early 90s to the present. They reflect an organization obsessed with paperwork, and the control and flow of money. No other than Mohammed Atef himself, at the time the number 2 or 3 leader in al Qaeda, was very much involved in enforcing accountability within the terrorist organization when it came to the expenditure of funds.
One letter contained in the declassified documents and authored by Atef demanded a detailed explanation of an al Qaeda militant leader’s expenditures. Specifically, in reference to the purchase of an air conditioner for personal use, Atef cautioned that “furniture used by brothers in al Qaeda is not considered private property…I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant…”.
The documents contain numerous examples of internal financial problems within the terrorist organization. One document addressed to Atef from a militant leader wished the leader “peace and god’s mercy and blessings”, but then complained “I have not received my salary in three months and I am six months behind in paying my rent…..you also told me to remind you, and this is a reminder”. Atef died in the U.S. led assault on Osama bin Laden’s Afghan refuge in 2001.
Current intelligence confirms that al Qaeda continues to struggle with financing its terrorist agenda. Post 9/11 legislation and enhanced investigative focus, both in the U.S. and abroad, have had a dramatic impact on terrorist financing. Each and every dollar seized from that pipeline has a direct impact on the ability of the organization to operate effectively.
The United States must continue to be a world leader in the war against terrorism and specifically the war against terrorist financing. The results, as evidenced by al Qaeda’s own words, are effective – who knows how many acts of terrorism have been avoided by this effort.