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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Money For the Taliban Terrorists

Everyone knows it takes lots of money to finance a war. Believe me, the Taliban has the money to sustain their holy war of terrorist activities. Fighting a Superpower such as the United States, the Taliban relies on vast amounts of money from non-governmental (and some believe, governmental) sources of funding. Destroying the Taliban demands that freedom-loving countries somehow cut the flow of cash to the hands of those in the organization. Have you ever thought about who really supplies the cash necessary for the insurgency of such a diverse mix of terrorists?

Who Funds the Taliban?

General David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in a recent interview that the Taliban has three main sources of funding: drug revenue; payments from legitimate businesses that are secretly owned by the armed group or that pay it kickbacks; and donations from foreign charitable foundations and individuals. (Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, June 1 2009)

Foreign Money

The CIA reportedly estimates that the Taliban received $106 billion in foreign money last year alone. This tremendous amount of money makes it difficult for intelligence officials to track the terrorist group's money flow. United Nations' Taliban and Al Qaeda Monitoring Team Coordinator Richard Barrett, told the Washington Post that Taliban supporters have grown much more skillful at masking their donations.

The Wall Street Journal also reports that senior U.S. officials said the Taliban received significant donations from Pakistan -- where sympathy for the group is widespread in the country's Pashtun community -- and Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Pakistani Ambassador Hussein Haqqani said his government had frozen hundreds of bank accounts tied to the Taliban and other extremist groups and said the effort is a "work in progress." (September 27 2009) reports that the Washington Post says Afghanistan's Taliban-led insurgency is "so heavily funded by foreign donations that U.S. and Afghan officials say it may be impossible to obstruct the group's money supply." The largest source of funding comes from foreign donations, not drugs like opium.


Anecdotal evidence is mounting that the Taliban are taking a hefty portion of assistance money coming into Afghanistan from the outside.Very high-level negotiations take place between the Taliban and major contractors, according to sources close to the process.

There are new claims that U.S.-funded contractors have been spending a hefty chunk of that funding on protection payments to the Taliban - for years, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. (September 3, 2009)

CBS reports that the State Department has spent more than $4 billion on development contracts in Afghanistan since 2002. Experts say the kickbacks could have netted the Taliban tens of millions of dollars and are such an open secret on the streets that the U.S. government had to know.

"You cannot do anything about it," said CBS News consultant Jere Van Dyke. "This is how it operated, this is how it was in the 1980s, this is how it is today."

Jean MacKenzie of GlobalPost (2009) states, "Virtually every major project includes a healthy cut for the insurgents. Call it protection money, call it extortion, or, as the Taliban themselves prefer to term it, 'spoils of war,' the fact remains that international donors, primarily the United States, are to a large extent financing their own enemy. Sources claim this goes beyond mere protection money or extortion of 'taxes' at the local level..."

“Everyone knows this is going on,” said one U.S. Embassy official, speaking privately, according to MacKenzie.

The militants recruit local fighters by paying for their services. As they move about in their traditional 4x4s, they have to feed their troops, pay for transportation and medical treatment for the wounded, and, of course, they have to buy rockets, grenades and their beloved Kalashnikovs.

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan told reporters that he would add a member of the Treasury Department to his staff to pursue the question of Taliban funding.The degree of cooperation and coordination between the Taliban and aid workers is surprising, and would most likely make funders extremely uncomfortable.

Here is an example of the funding process according to Jean MacKenzie, "The manager of an Afghan firm with lucrative construction contracts with the U.S. government builds in a minimum of 20 percent for the Taliban in his cost estimates. The manager, who will not speak openly, has told friends privately that he makes in the neighborhood of $1 million per month. Out of this, $200,000 is siphoned off for the insurgents."

Of course, if such negotiations fall through, the project will come to harm — workers may be attacked or killed, bridges may be blown up, or engineers may be assassinated.

The Afghan Tribal System

Within the Afghan tribal system, the Noorzai tribe is the most pro-Taliban, while the Achakzai tribal people partially support the Taliban. Between them, they dominate trade in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

"There are only 100 members of the Chaman Chamber of Commerce, but there are over 3,500 importers and exporters in the Chaman market," Sardar Shaukat Popalzai, the president of the Balochistan Economic Forum that researches economic trends, told Asia Times Online

He continues, "Most of them have offices in Dubai and Jabal-i-Ali [in the United Arab Emirates] and they deal mostly in motor vehicles and clothes. It really looks like a wonderland when you go to the wastelands of Chaman and find many really affluent people actually live there. They have such a monopoly on trade that the regional agent of Three Fives cigarettes - which is the most expensive brand in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia - is based in Chaman." (Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, January 10, 2007)

They also have a monopoly on the import of used heavy vehicles, which they refurbish and resell in the regional markets, beside reconditioned cars. After Dubai, they have set up offices in Europe for importing vehicles. Even in the Japanese cities of Nagoya and Osaka, Chaman businessmen operate successfully. "They have such an edge over everybody that they have ample cash liquidity - so much so that they can occupy whole floors of five-star hotels for months whenever they visit Japan," Shaukat said.

These traders are either from the Noorzai tribe (100% pro-Taliban) or from the Achakzai tribe (partially pro-Taliban). The tribesmen wield immense financial clout in Kandahar and most newly constructed hotels belong to them. With the UAE as the hub for the Taliban's finances, money moves through the traditional hawala (paper-free transfer) system or through direct contacts. A 2006 World Bank report about Afghanistan said the hawala system "carries out the majority of the country's cash payments and transfers." (Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, June 1 2009)

And getting the money back to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan is not a problem, as the Taliban don't use banks and they move freely across borders. (Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, January 10, 2007) 


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