Senator: ‘Problem of Terrorist Financing Will Stay’ if ISIS is Defeated

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) warned that even if ISIS is defeated the “problem of terrorist financing will stay” unless the United States takes action to address the problem.

Casey, a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, said ISIS is “rewriting the rulebook” of how terrorist groups operate.

“Despite the loss of territory in Syria and Iraq, it continues to cultivate affiliates in Northern and Western Africa, Central Asia, and other parts of the Middle East. It continues to sow seeds of terror in neighboring countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and further afield in Europe, in Africa and of course here in the United States of America. They’ve figured out how to operate outside of the international financial system, lessening the impact of our banking sanctions,” he said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

“It’s taken far too long for our own strategy to adapt and respond to this new reality. We may be able to defeat ISIS but the problem of terrorist financing will stay with us,” he added.

In February, Casey visited Israel, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and “was able to confirm” that the terrorist financing issue would remain unless the U.S. takes specific action.

“That’s why I believe a more robust, permanent international architecture for countering terrorist financing and their facilitation networks is warranted,” he said.

Casey told the audience that U.S. and coalition airstrikes on “oil trucks and cash storage sites” have had “a meaningful impact” on the terrorist group’s finances.

“For example, ISIS has had to reduce its salaries to pay their fighters in recent months, and in recent weeks the administration has been reporting significant progress on rolling back ISIS control of territory,” he said.

Casey and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) have introduced the Stop Terrorist Operational Resources and Money (STORM) Act, which authorizes a new designation called “jurisdiction of terrorism financing concern,” which Casey said “can be triggered either by a lack of political will or a lack of capacity.”

“We see both in these countries. Some countries have the capacity to make meaningful progress, but lack the political will or domestic consensus to do so. I believe we should levy tough penalties that that prompt reconsideration of their willful ignorance or tacit acceptance of terrorist financiers carrying their country’s passports or operating in their territory,” Casey suggested. “The most troubling scenario, from my perspective, is when corruption and politics hinder law enforcement and judicial proceedings.”

The bill gives the president the authority to designate a county as a jurisdiction of terrorist financing concern.

“The president also has the opportunity to refrain from imposing designation and turn to an agreement, and then has to report on Congress on how that’s working out. It’s not indefinite,” Casey said.

“So there are timelines on how at intervals of time, like after a year, the president’s going to have to come back to Congress and say, ‘well, it’s either working or not working,’ ‘they’re cooperating, they’re making changes.’ But it’s purely voluntary. The president doesn’t have to exercise this authority,” he added.

Casey also said “the president has to ground his or her decision on the prevalence of terrorism financing in the country and the lack of effort and the lack of activity on the part of that country to crack down on it.”

The penalties included under the STORM Act include the blocking of arms sales as well as loans from the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

“With some countries, though, the challenge is not political. It’s a basic lack of capacity. In these situations, the United States is well-equipped to provide technical assistance and capacity building,” the senator said. “We’ve done this before with nuclear nonproliferation, where for decades U.S. nuclear security and border security experts provided training to other countries. We can and should do the same on the issue of countering terrorism financing.”