Obama administration counterterrorism officials said Thursday that U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State-held oil fields and cash depots in Syria and Iraq are the number-one way to destroy the terror group’s finances.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Andrew Keller told lawmakers the strikes, coupled with efforts to block the group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, from international financial systems, have forced it to “cut salary payments to its fighters in Raqqa and Mosul by fifty percent.”
“Our most effective method of disrupting ISIL’s revenues to date has also been one of the most atypical counter-terrorist finance tools: military airstrikes against ISIL-controlled oil and gas facilities and cash storage sites,” Mr. Keller told a joint House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services subcommittee hearing.
Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser, who also testified at the hearing, added that “a number of ISIL fighters” are leaving the battlefield as their pay and benefits have been cut or delayed.
Mr. Glaser claimed the group is increasing taxes in its territories and resorting to extortion to fund operations.
“When we see indications that ISIL cannot pay the salaries of its own fighters … we know we are hitting them where it hurts,” he said, adding that “we are also seeing internal corruption rising. ISIL’s own investigations have identified multiple instances of ISIL leaders stealing cash and gold.”
Mr. Keller and Mr. Glaser testified alongside acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Theresa Whelan and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chief of Law Enforcement William Moody.