The U.S. military and Treasury have targeted financiers in a bid to financially starve the Iraq insurgency. A similar effort has succeeded in draining Al Qaeda’s coffers, according to an article in West Point Sentinel journal (pdf!). But the bad guys adapt fast:
Budding, local terrorist cells are increasingly self-funded through the proceeds of criminal activity, use of personal funds or government welfare benefits. Some of these cells have connections to Al Qaeda’s senior leadership but are independently and locally funded; others operate on their own in “leaderless” communities with only virtual connections to Al Qaeda.
The internet is key. If a budding terrorist or insurgent can get online, he has access to a larger extremist group’s ideology, even if he doesn’t have access to their command and control … or to their finances. Ideologically linked but logistically independent, extremist cells cannot be disrupted by the systemic attacks that the U.S. government is so good at.