The United Nations released a monitoring team report on ISIL and AQ that highlights some financing trends. For ISIL, the UN expects the group to resort to Al-Qaeda in Iraq-style financing methods due to loss of territory. Funds are also continuing to flow from ISIL to its branches, while the affiliates are looking to diversify their income streams. The group continues to rely on a network of facilitators across the Middle East to move funds through cash couriers and hawala. When aspects of these networks are disrupted (such as through an arrest), there is little overall impact on the network as the group is able to adapt easily. The group has also been using “clean” individuals as fronts / nominees in order to gain access to the international financial system. The UN also highlighted an increasing concern that the group will be able to benefit from aid as it starts to flow into the region.
Certainly, terrorist groups profit from aid in a variety of ways: they can steal it and re-sell it (if it’s a tangible good), they can “tax” or extort funds from aid workers to allow them access to an area, they can divert funds from charities / aid organizations by setting up their own aid agencies (that then partner with the international organization, siphoning funds for the terrorist group), etc. Some of these methods have been observed recently in Somalia.
Ultimately, while ISIL has lost a significant amount of territory and ability to generate revenue, the group likely has ample resources to conduct basic attacks and sustain itself in the short to medium term. New sources of revenue arriving in its area of operations will only enhance the group’s ability to generate revenue.