US, Turkey to step up war on Daesh-K’s financial roots, experts say

ANKARA / KABUL: The US State Department on Monday imposed new sanctions on three leaders of the Afghan branch of Daesh, widely known as Daesh-K, and another man accused of running an informal financial network based in Turkey.

The group’s leader, Sanaullah Ghafari, spokesman Sultan Aziz Azam and the head of Kabul province, Maulawi Rajab, have all been named as specially designated global terrorists, while Ismatullah Khalozai, accused of running a network informal money transfer, known as hawala, has supported Daesh-K for the past two years, has also been designated.

Khalozai is known as the group’s financial facilitator and managed a financial program involving the international resale of luxury items, the proceeds of which were used to fund Daesh-K. The United States also accuses him of engaging in human trafficking operations, including bringing a courier from Daesh-K from Afghanistan to Turkey.

Last year, Washington identified another key financial enabler for Daesh, Turkey-based Adnan Mohammed Amin Al-Rawi.

Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department, said of this week’s action against Khalozai: “(The) designation underscores the determination of the United States to prevent (Daesh-K) and its members to operate the international financial system. to support terrorist acts in Afghanistan and beyond … The Biden administration is committed to eliminating terrorist financing networks around the world.

All of Khalozai’s property and interests in property under US jurisdiction are now blocked, while US citizens cannot enter into any transactions with him.

After the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August and the rapid takeover of the Taliban, Daesh-K acquired a large presence in 34 provinces and stepped up its bloody attacks. The group recently claimed responsibility for a double bombing in the Afghan capital Kabul this month.

Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Council regularly attacks ISIS’s illegal money transfer system and cooperates with the United States to monitor the hawala chain system.

Colin Clarke, senior researcher at the Soufan Center, a nonprofit organization focused on violent extremism, said: “Turkey must open the books at the US Treasury Department and share intelligence on all terrorist networks known to operate on. Turkish soil. “

He added that Turkey and the United States should cooperate more to tackle the financial roots of terrorist groups, regardless of which power might benefit from the current arrangement. “So the crackdown on this activity will cause tension,” Clarke told Arab News.

“After September 11, the international community fell into the analytical trap of thinking that failed states like Afghanistan are the ideal refuge for terrorist groups. However, countries like Turkey are much more valuable because they are connected to the traps of globalization, from communications to transport to global finance, ”he added.

In 2019, Turkey disrupted another of Daesh’s illegal money transfer systems, which used Turkish and Syrian jewelry companies and money changers as shell companies.

Nihat Ali Ozcan, security policy analyst at Turkey’s Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara, said ISIS’s illegal money mobility did not emerge as a result of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, but was underway before that date.

“As the United States has started to track and publicly announce the origins of these money transfers, (it) means that there is continued cooperation between authorities in Ankara and Washington behind the scenes to deal with global financial crimes, as both countries are obliged to abide by the relevant rules. international commitments on this issue, ”Ozcan told Arab News.

Ozcan said that when the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August, half of the country’s parliamentarians had Turkish citizenship due to the assets and investments they previously had in Turkey.

“Therefore, there are significant legal and illegal financial flows in Turkey which ultimately also involve human trafficking and drug trafficking. It’s no surprise that some illegal groups are using the hawala system via Turkey to fund (Daesh-K) due to this global ecosystem of money and human mobility that crosses borders, ”he added. .

Over the summer, hundreds of Afghans crossed from Iran to Turkey every day. Experts point out that these human flows have led to uncontrollable movements of money inside the country.

Ozcan now expects the United States and Turkey, both victims of terrorism, to step up their efforts to trace the roots of the illegal transactions that have been passed on to terrorist cells.

“This latest announcement from the US Treasury is just the start of a new process and this bilateral cooperation against global financial crimes will not be limited to Afghanistan but will likely extend to regions where Daesh is gaining a presence,” he said. he declared.

An official spokesperson for the Taliban in Kabul said Daesh-K was not a threat to the country. Bilal Karimi, of the Taliban Prime Minister’s office, said: “They (Daesh-K) have no negative effect on Afghanistan. Those names in the list are the Unknown Faces, and one of them was already killed two or three years ago. So they are not familiar to anyone; on the whole, Daesh is not a threat to the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or to the people of Afghanistan.

He added: “You know that this type of criminal activity is happening all over the world, but the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has arrested several people involved in these cases, and many of them have been killed. Also, we have dismantled many Daesh groups in Kabul and in other provinces. This group (Daesh-K) has no support from the people or any other organization. All these actions are only chills for the Daech group; they are not a threat. So they can’t do anything to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

However, Ahmad Sayeedi, an expert on international relations, told Arab News that Daesh-K was a significant threat to Afghanistan because it enjoys international support. “What I mean is they have a lot of money and financial support. Daesh will be the greatest danger for Afghanistan. They will be mainly based in Jalalabad (in the province of Nangarhar), the main base of Daesh; and in the towns of Sheberghan and Baghlan.

Qais Zaheer, another international relations analyst, agreed. “Daesh is a potential threat to Afghan peace; they are the ugly face of terrorism in Afghanistan, ”he said. “I believe that the re-emergence of this group may provide an opportunity for the intervention of regional and international powers in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, due to the (return) of the group and the mistakes of the Taliban, the group has taken action and, with the group’s available financial resources, it may pose a threat to the Taliban regime. So putting their officials on the US sanctions list can help Afghanistan and also the Taliban regime to fight and weaken Daesh-K in Afghanistan, ”Zaheer added.

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