WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration has the capability to take out the vast oil infrastructure that fuels and funds the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the richest terrorist group in modern history, but chooses not to, suggests the chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.
Environmental concerns limit the number of strikes President Barack Obama authorizes against certain ISIS oil targets, declared Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), the task force chairman, in an interview with Breitbart News.
“I’m told the President did not want to take out the [ISIS oil] trucks because there are some concerns with the environment,” said Pittenger, who also serves as the vice-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing.
“They’ve [Obama administration] started taking out some of the [truck] convoys,” said Pittenger. “I’m still frustrated over them saying it’s hard to see the convoys when they’re on the open terrain. It’s a bit disingenous to me to say they can’t take trucks out, they can take them out. We’ve taken out some refineries. What’s the problem?”
ISIS reportedly generates up to $1.3 million daily from its lucrative oil smuggling business, which yielded 45,000 barrels per day at its peak.
Early this year, the U.S. State Department said that the U.S. air campaign aimed at crippling the illicit oil business has reduced ISIS’ revenue to less than $1 million per day. Meanwhile, the Pentagon estimated that the efforts have reduced production to less than 34,000 barrels daily.
Pittenger’s comments to Breitbart News about environmental concerns hindering U.S. efforts to take out ISIS’ oil assets echo claims made by former CIA Director Michael Morell in late 2015.
“We didn’t go after oil wells, actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls, because we didn’t want to do environmental damage, and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure,” Morell told Charlie Rose of PBS.
“There seemed to have been a judgment that, look, we don’t want to destroy these oil tankers because that’s infrastructure that’s going to be necessary to support the people when ISIS isn’t there anymore, and it’s going to create environmental damage,” he added.
Pittenger noted that the Obama administration’s efforts to tackle ISIS’ funding mechanisms are inadequate and underfunded, despite the key role the group’s revenue sources have played to its territorial expansion and capabilities on the battlefield.
Out of all the terrorist groups, ISIS has the most effective and elaborate financing apparatus, according to the congressman.
“Their financing structure is much more capable and sophisticated, and that’s why they’ve been able to recruit so well,” Pittenger told Breitbart News.
“Their success is built upon their success to recruit, but they need money to operate their Caliphate and without money, they can’t function,” he also said, later adding that terrorism financing should be a “primary objective, but I think its importance is either underrated or not understood because a lot more resources should be put into this.”
Along with Austrian lawmaker Andreas Karlsbock, Pittenger hosted the fourth Parliamentary-Intelligence Security Forum, which took place in Vienna on Monday.
The event brought together Members of Parliament from across Europe, as well as high-ranking government officials and private-sector experts from 30 countries to discuss terrorism financing and cybersecurity issues with their U.S counterparts.
ISIS financing was at the top of the agenda, Pittenger told Breitbart News.