According to CNN reports, over the years, opium and heroin -- both derivatives of the poppy -- have served as a major source of revenue for the insurgency, most notably the Taliban movement that once ruled Afghanistan. "If you can just help the people of Afghanistan in this way, the fighting will go away," said Abdul Qadir, a farmer in Lashkar Gah."The Taliban and other enemies of the country will also disappear."
The relationship between the Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida is loosely affiliated, according to Greg Sullivan, a spokesperson for the State Department's Near East Asian Affairs bureau. Bin Laden plays a spiritual and philosophical leadership role to jihadists, but the operational logistics are being carried out by smaller groups in many cases.
Al-Qaida and the Taliban do have the shared goal in Afghanistan of driving out all foreign presence and reinstalling the Taliban as the government. "There was also a sense among some al-Qaida members that the Taliban was a true Islamic government, the only one," said Daniel Byman, director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University.
The two groups formed a symbiotic relationship. The Taliban providing a base of operations, while al-Qaida provided defense for the group. The al-Qaida network recruited foreign fighters and trained them into elite fighting forces that backed the Taliban.
"Before the war (United States involvement), the people of Afghanistan were the main victims of al-Qaida," said Ashraf Haidari, political counselor at the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington, D.C. "They supported the Taliban to victimize and oppress the people of Afghanistan."
As al-Qaida flourished in the country and expanded to train thousands of fighters, the network continued to organize terrorist strikes. In 1998, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri released a fatwa, a declaration of war, against America.
"The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it," the fatwa stated.
Afghanistan's democratically elected president, Hamid Karzai, who took power in 2002 with the endorsement of U.S. President Bush, took a strong stance against terrorism from the beginning of his presidency. He reacted with frustration to growing insurgent attacks in the country and called on the international community, especially Pakistan, to help root out terrorism at its source.
Pakistan is probably the most central location of al-Qaida now, according to Byman, though the organization does not have a strong base of operations and training like it once enjoyed in Afghanistan. The group's two leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, have managed to evade U.S. intelligence and, as of September 2006, were believed to be living in Pakistan.
Victories for the U.S. war on terror were highly publicized in the United States and the smaller network itself has suffered, but the jihadist movement continues to grow and as of now the United States still has not captured bin Laden.
Late news (August 8, 2009)
Reportedly, Pakistan's Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone missile strike on Friday, a Pakistani minister has confirmed. Mehsud was the nation’s most wanted terrorist, a fierce ally of al Qaeda, and thought to be responsible for a number of suicide bombings and killings, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
The United States had a $5 million bounty on Mehsud's head, and a U.S. official said on Thursday that if the death was confirmed, it “would be a major victory” for U.S. efforts there. On Friday, Pakistan’s Foreign minister confirmed: “According to my sources, this news is correct, and he has been taken out.” However, Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas cautioned the reports of Mehsud's death were still unconfirmed. "We are receiving reports and probing," he said. DNA evidence may be required for confirmation.