Counter-Terrorism: The Al Qaeda War On Internal Corruption


January 23, 2014:   Al Qaeda was originally described as a group of well-organized terrorists, who were quick to use the latest technology and paid attention to logistics and financial matters (fund raising, and staying on top of corruption).  That's all generally true, although it’s often ignored that Islamic terrorists, much like the rest of the Islamic world, has big problems with corruption. This is ironic, because one objective of most Islamic terrorist groups is to reduce or eliminate corruption. Despite the fact that many, if not most, Moslems are quick to participate in corrupt practices, most also wish there was less of it. Yet whenever large quantities of terrorist organization records are captured there are always many documents dealing with corruption (how to detect it within al Qaeda, how to punish the offenders and how to prevent it.) Dealing with corruption is made more difficult by the fact that terrorists often deal in cash and often it is difficult to get receipts to document transactions. Radio and Internet communications are also full of complaints of and discussions about corruption. A major source of terrorist leader defections is that the guy got caught stealing and feared fatal retribution. One of the nastier counter-terrorism techniques is to make it look like terrorist leader is on the take and then let his bosses do the rest.

One of major corruption problem areas for al Qaeda is contractors and “human resources” in general. Take, for example, the business of recruiting suicide bombers. Al Qaeda recognizes that this is a "push/pull" situation. Thus the "pull" (depicting suicide bombers heroic and attractive figures) is done via emphasizing the martyr angle, and all the religious connotations. This plays well in Islamic countries. Cash payments to the families also adds to the allure. Still, most young men are not dumb enough to fall for the offer to blow themselves up for the Love of God and some extra cash for their family. And those that can be tempted, often need some efforts by someone who is good at persuading people to kill themselves. Further incentives are needed. Not for the suicide bomber, but for the guy who recruits him. Thus it is common to pay finders fees for those who bring in a suicide bomber recruit. The bounty varies a lot, from $100 to several thousand depending on how popular killing yourself for the cause is in a particular area. It is less in countries where there are more desperate, unemployed young men. It's more in countries where the economy is booming. But the recruiter has an incentive, and the incentive works. But there are often kickbacks or recruiting agencies lying to their recruiters about how much the bounty really is and paying less.

The rules for stealing are also applied in the huge business of building and deploying roadside bombs and all manner of improvised or factory made explosive devices. There are usually contracted out, paying different groups to build, place and detonate them. The last phase, detonation often involves armed terrorists, either to protect whoever is going to set them off or to follow up with gunfire and RPGs. But building them and placing them is often the task of contractors and it is a lucrative business in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The bomb builders or “engineers” are the most highly paid terrorism contractors and some of these fellows travel around to wherever the fees are the highest. Captured documents show that the large quantities of cash involved have to be watched carefully lest too much of it disappear on the trip from the terrorist treasury to the people who are supposed to get paid.

Larger terrorist groups, like al Qaeda, employ accountants and auditors to keep an eye on the money. These experts often require bodyguards to prevent intimidation. While better run terrorist groups relied on all this paperwork to reduce corruption, counter-terror organizations found captured receipts and account books an excellent and detailed record of terrorist activities. This tells much about terrorist tactics and how successful they were.





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