The US is within reach of achieving its core goal of defeating al Qaeda, a top official told lawmakers on Tuesday, even as he conceded that the large network of terror financing still remains a global challenge.
"The terrorist financing tale is far from over and challenges remain. We are, as secretary of defence (Leon) Panetta has said, within reach of achieving our core goal of defeating al Qaeda, the only international terrorist group to successfully conduct an attack on US soil," Daniel L Glaser, the assistant secretary of treasury for terrorist financing.
"With Osama Bin Laden's death, al Qaeda has lost a charismatic leader capable of raising funds and inspiring recruits."
Already in difficult financial straits due to diminished access to its traditional donor base in the Gulf, in particular Saudi Arabia and the UAE, al Qaeda will come under increasing financial pressure," he said, in his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee's sub-committee on Oversight and Investigations.
"But other pillars of financial and logistical support remain," he said.
"As our recent designation of six members of an Iran-based al Qaeda financial facilitation networks demonstrates, Iran has emerged as a vital facilitation conduit for al Qaeda. Its provision of safe havens to al Qaeda is offering much needed breathing space for the group," he added.
Two members of this network are located in Kuwait and Qatar, underscoring the need for these jurisdictions to do more to crack down on domestic terrorist financiers and facilitators.
The designation of now-deceased Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, al Qaeda's former overall commander in Pakistan's tribal areas, is another reminder of the permissive operating environment al Qaeda enjoys in Pakistan, he said.
"Even as we make progress against core al Qaeda, we are finding that, with the rise of al Qaeda affiliates, the terrorist financing threat has metastasised and, in some ways, become more intractable.
Today, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are among the most dangerous and operationally active terrorist groups," Glaser said.
"These affiliates rely on non-traditional sources of funding, including criminal activity and, most notably, kidnapping-for-ransom. Still other groups such as Al-Shabaab and Hamas, which physically control territory, can tax ports, businesses and local populations for revenue.
Attacking financial flows that largely avoid the financial system (eg kidnapping-for-ransom) or are internally derived (eg internal taxation) will require novel approaches and new partnerships," he said.