Al-Qaida / Al-Qaeda Funding in Afghanistan
Contrary to popular belief, funding for al Qaeda does not come from the personal assets of Bin Ladin but from a complex fundraising network fueled by financial facilitators and diverted Islamic charity donations. Prior to September 11, the financial facilitators raised money from Gulf country donors, particularly Saudi Arabia. They primarily relied on imams at mosques who diverted compulsory charitable donations known as zakat to al Qaeda. They also received money from individuals in corrupted charities. Al Qaeda operatives infiltrated large charitable organizations with loose external oversight or controlled smaller ones. They used these employment positions to gain access to the organization's bank accounts.
Although some governments may have consciously chosen to disregard al Qaeda's fundraising activites, there is no concrete evidence that any government actually supported al Qaeda finacially before Septmeber 11 (other than the Taliban's limited support upon Bin Ladin's arrival in Afghanistan). According to the Commission on Terrorist Attacks, Saudi Arabia, a country whose name is associated with al Qaeda funding, has never provided al Qaeda with monetary support. The report also denies allegations that al Qaeda relied heavily on the drug trade and on diamond trafficking from African states during the civil wars for sources of revenue.
After money was collected through donations and financial facilitators, money was moved by hawala, a traditional, trust-based method for the transfering of funds, or by couriers. There is little evidence that Bin Ladin or any high-ranking al Qaeda leaders used banks during this time period in Afghanistan, although hawaladars under al Qaeda may have used banks to move and hold money.
Al Qaeda's funds were dispersed just as quickly as they were brought in. The CIA estimated that prior to September 11, al Qaeda spent $30 million dollars annually, $10-$20 million of which went to the Taliban.
Since September 11 and the fall of the Taliban, al Qaeda funding has drastically decreased. Countless financial facilitators have either been arrested or killed resulting in decreased fundraising with increased fund transfering difficulty. Many corrupt charities have gone completely out of business. Due to the monetary shortcommings, al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia decreased in May and November of 2003. Al Qaeda's negative image has also caused significant decreases in charitable donations.
In addition to a decrease in funds, al Qaeda's expeditures have also enormously decreased due to cutbacks in the organization. Al Qaeda no longer provides financial assistance to the Taliban or runs Afghan training camps. Terrorist operations, however, require little money and are still relatively easy for al Qaeda to fund.
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