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Al Qaida funding disrupted, but Taliban much stronger: US

The US government claims to have made major strides in disrupting Al Qaida's funding network, but believes several other terrorist groups, particularly the Taliban in Afghanistan, are much stronger financially than Al Qaida.

world Updated: Oct 13, 2009 19:48 IST

The US government claims to have made major strides in disrupting Al Qaida's funding network, but believes several other terrorist groups, particularly the Taliban in Afghanistan, are much stronger financially than Al Qaida.

These other terror groups continue to pose "serious threats" to the United States and its interests around the world, Assistant Treasury Secretary David S Cohen told a joint conference of the American Banking Association and American Bar Association on Monday.

Al Qaida may be in its worst financial shape in years, but the terrorist group still has the capability to refill its coffers quickly, he said and a more thorough dismantling of its fundraising network will require greater cooperation from the international community.

Terrorist organisations, including Al Qaida and the Taliban, also appear to be turning increasingly to conventional crime to finance their operations, he said.

The Taliban has raised money by extorting poppy farmers and heroin operators and smugglers, as well as demanding protection payments from legitimate businesses, he said.

The Treasury Department - by targeting donors, fundraisers and facilitators of terrorist groups in the US and abroad - has been able to partially choke the flow of money to such outfits as Al Qaida, the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah, 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," he said.

The department's anti-terrorism efforts have been particularly successful against Al Qaida, 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 recruitment and training, Cohen said.

"We assess that Al Qaida is in its weakest financial condition in several years, and that, as a result, its influence is waning," he said. "This success is important. It is a sign we are moving in the right direction."

But Cohen said Treasury officials "were not taking any victory laps" because there still exists a pool of replacement donors ready, willing and able to assist the network that masterminded the Sep 11, 2001 attacks.

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