Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Follow The Money: The Taliban's Growing Criminal Empire | Military.com

Follow The Money: The Taliban's Growing Criminal Empire | Military.com

Ever since being deposed in November 2001, by a combination of Northern Alliance Militias and U.S. Special Forces, the Taliban has been conducting an insurgency aimed at overthrowing the U.S. and NATO-backed Afghan government. Officially, the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force, also known as Operation Enduring Freedom, was designed to topple the Taliban Government, root out al-Qaida's leadership and establish a democratic government in Kabul. It ended on December 28, 2014. It was replaced by a new NATO-led mission called Resolute Support (RSM), designed to train, advise and assist the Afghan military forces. In the meantime, the insurgency has continued unabated and Taliban militants have steadily increased both the scope and intensity of their attacks, as well as the areas they can either directly control or extend their influence over.

Parallel with the growth of the Taliban insurgency has been an equally dramatic growth in the range of criminal activities that the Taliban uses to fund its operations. Such practices are nothing new. European subversive organizations have often engaged in kidnappings for ransom or bank robberies to obtain funds to finance their activities. Such practices have been true from contemporary groups like Baader Meinhof or the Brigate Rosse to Lenin's Bolsheviks a century ago. In the United States, the Symbionese Liberation Army famously kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and staged a bank robbery. In Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) evolved from a Marxist-Leninist inspired guerilla movement that trafficked in cocaine to fund its operations to a full-fledged criminal narcotics organization that paid only nominal attention to its ideological roots.

Officially, it's believed that the Taliban has a yearly budget of around $500 million. In private, however, Western and Afghani intelligence agencies admit that the real Taliban budget is closer to between $1 billion and $2 billion, with most opting for the higher number. Intelligence sources at the RSM place the number even higher -- at more than $2 billion. Moreover, it is widely believed that the Taliban has stockpiled cash amounting to several billion additional dollars in preparation of a major campaign to seize control of Afghanistan at some point in the future.

Where exactly does the Taliban get all this cash?