During the 10 1/2 years I was actively tracking Osama Bin Laden’s back accounts, I discovered one interesting thing – he was an avid giver to charitable causes. At least so it appeared on the surface.
In actuality he was covertly funding terrorists cells all over the world.
He did this through intermediaries and through contacts he had in Saudi Arabia at the time. Making it extremely difficult to track as you can imagine. Despite the difficulties we did have limited success doing it (see letter, dated July 17, 2003).
It was estimated that from 1980 to 1989, about $600 million is passed through Osama bin Laden’s charity fronts, according to Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s first bin Laden unit. I would say that amount is much higher…
Some of it goes through the charity front Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as Al-Kifah. It was also being laundered through Islamic charies all around the world, including more than a few in South Africa.
The money generally comes from friends of donors in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, and is used to purchase arm and supply the mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Yousaf, a high ranking ISI official, will later say, “It was largely Arab money that saved the system,” since so much of the aid given by the CIA and Saudi Arabia was siphoned away before it got to Afghanistan. “By this I mean cash from rich individuals or private organizations in the Arab world, not Saudi government funds.
Without those extra millions the flow of arms actually getting to the mujaheddin would have been cut to a trickle.” (source: DREYFUSS, 2005, PP. 279-280).
Future CIA Director Robert Gates will later claim that in 1985 and 1986, the CIA became aware of Arabs assisting and fighting with the Afghan mujaheddin, and the CIA “examined ways to increase their participation, perhaps in the form of some sort of ‘international brigade,’ but nothing came of it.” (source: COLL, 2004, pp. 146).