- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2009

Government efforts to disrupt al Qaeda’s funding network are working, as the terrorist group is in the worst financial shape it has been in years, a senior Treasury Department official said Monday.

But David S. Cohen, assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing, cautioned that al Qaeda still maintains the capability to quickly refill its coffers and said a more thorough dismantling of the group’s fundraising network will require greater cooperation from U.S. partners in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere, he said.

Treasury — by targeting donors, fundraisers and facilitators of terrorist groups in the U.S. and abroad — has been able to partially choke the flow of money to such outfits as al Qaeda, the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Mr. Cohen said.

“These targeted financial measures, used alongside our other national security and law enforcement tools, have had a significant disruptive impact on terrorist financing networks,” Mr. Cohen said Monday afternoon at a joint conference of the American Banking Association and American Bar Association.

Treasury’s anti-terrorism efforts have been particularly successful against al Qaeda, which made four public pleas for funds during the first six months of this year — including a June appeal when a group leader complained that a money shortage was hurting the group’s recruitment and training, he said.

“We assess that al Qaeda is in its weakest financial condition in several years, and that, as a result, its influence is waning,” Mr. Cohen said. “This success is important. It is a sign we are moving in the right direction.”

But Mr. Cohen said the Treasury Department “wasn’t taking any victory laps” because there still exists a pool of replacement donors ready, willing and able to assist al Qaeda.

“We have at least temporarily disrupted some of the most significant facilitation networks between these donors and al Qaeda,” he said. “But we have not yet dissuaded nearly enough donors from wanting to give in the first place.”

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