Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Convenes Sixteenth Finance Working Group Meeting
May 17, 2022
On May 9, 2022, the Counter ISIS Finance Group (CIFG) of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS held its sixteenth meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, to discuss global efforts to combat ISIS financing. The United States, Italy, and Saudi Arabia hosted this meeting, joined by several dozen member states and observers. The CIFG is one of five active working groups of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
The following is a joint statement of the CIFG co-leads:
“The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS continues to adapt counter-ISIS finance efforts to the ongoing terrorist threat. We are focused on disrupting international ISIS funds transfers and dismantling ISIS finance networks that support extremist activities, including terrorist attacks, militant recruitment, and promotion of violent ideology.
During our first in-person meeting since 2019, CIFG members and observers stressed the need to prevent ISIS from reconstituting its networks and expanding its presence across Africa and Asia. A range of international organizations, states, and independent experts exchanged information and shared lessons learned about ISIS financial operations and efforts to dismantle ISIS fundraising and financial facilitation networks. The meeting participants highlighted the role of registered and unregistered money services businesses in ISIS funds transfers, the group’s increasing but still relatively limited use of virtual currency, and the challenges of pursing terrorist financing prosecutions.
We have learned that despite having access to at least 25 million U.S. dollars in reserves, ISIS Core in Syria and Iraq is struggling to meet its financial obligations, as its expenditures exceed its income. ISIS continues to generate revenue through extortion, looting, kidnapping for ransom, and donations from sympathizers across the globe. ISIS also transfers funds to some of its branches and networks around the world, and seeks to pay family members of deceased and imprisoned ISIS personnel, which is the group’s largest expense. In addition, ISIS distributes salaries to its members and recruits, buys weapons, and spends money on the release of imprisoned ISIS fighters. However, ISIS is probably intentionally withholding some family payments to extend the duration of its limited financing.
CIFG participants noted that Africa has emerged as a center of gravity for ISIS, as the group has rapidly expanded its influence across the continent in part by capturing small amounts of territory and exploiting local economies. ISIS branches and networks in Africa generally have precarious finances and typically rely on local fundraising schemes such as looting and extortion of local populations, and kidnapping for ransom. They have also used facilitators in Africa to transfer funds among ISIS branches, networks, and supporters across the continent, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, and Uganda. This illustrates the importance of increased cooperation with and between African countries to combat the financial reach of these groups. The ISIS branch in West Africa has probably received external financial support from ISIS leadership typically via cash courier or hawala networks, highlighting the need to improve border security and supervision of money services businesses. ISIS in Africa occasionally cooperates and competes with other terrorist groups in the region, such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, which suggests that the group learns from other local extremist organizations as it seeks to maximize revenue generation.
The Global Coalition, and the CIFG in particular, must remain vigilant for signs that ISIS Core and its branches and networks are providing mutual support across organizational lines and work to prevent the financial interconnectivity of distant ISIS affiliates. We must continue to deepen our understanding of ISIS’s financial operations, emerging financial threats, and activities undertaken by Coalition members to investigate and prosecute ISIS financiers and facilitators. CIFG co-leads will continue coordinating international efforts to achieve these goals, and we reaffirm the CIFG’s commitment to leading the Global Coalition’s efforts to undermine ISIS’s ability to finance its operations around the world.”