How does Taliban get money to fight its wars?
Taliban emerged as a fighting force in Afghanistan in 1994, when the country seemed to have been plunged in an interminable fratricidal conflict. Since then, it has fought armed battles with NATO forces led by the mighty U.S, the Afghan government forces, and more worryingly with itself. The Taliban splintered into small groups, and began to fight with one another for dominance over territories.
Wars are very expensive affairs. The soldiers need to paid, new arms and ammunition have to be bought, and new vehicles have to bought and maintained. So, how does the Taliban manage to garner the resources? It manages to get money from a number of sources. These are ….
- Sale of opium in international black market. It manages to circumvent the anti-narcotic efforts of the Afghan government through bribes and threats. It provides cover to the poppy farmers who grow the banned crop in their fields, and pays them lucrative price for their poppy harvests.
- Through cuts from contractors who work for the NATO and U.S. troops as suppliers, executing building contracts, and logistical services. The generous amount of dollars poured in by the U.S. to build schools, hospitals. Bridges, irrigation canals is not utilized for the purpose in full. The local Taliban warlord takes a hefty cut from the bills of the contractors. If the money is not paid, the Taliban uses its muscles. Thus, the U.S. tax payers finance the worst enemy of their country!
- Through extortion .. Local Taliban warlords know who has how much money, and who among them can be preyed upon. They just kidnap the poor fellow, or some women of his family, and hold them till the ransom money is not paid.
- From the Afghan government .. At times, the government in Kabul buys peace with same Taliban warlords to ensure a few strategically important projects to go through.
This is the reason, the monthly salary paid by the Taliban is higher than the salary paid by the legitimate government to its soldiers. The Taliban either snatches the arms and ammunitions from government soldiers, or buys them in the black market. Unfortunately, Peshawar has emerged as a market for such trade. The Pakistan government has tried hard to choke this supply line, but its success has not been great.
Taliban’s annual income is estimated to have touched a whopping USD1.5 billion. Just imagine, if this amount is spent for Afghanistan’s development, what change it can bring about to the war-torn impoverished country!
The poppy farming, and its ramification .. Afghanistan’s poppy gets converted to opium, and is sold in the global market. Countless young men and women in America, Europe, and even Russia consume the drugs and get so addicted that they become a burden on the society. They create law and order problems, and can’t do any job to serve their society.
The American authorities tried to stop the poppy farming by law, through arrests, and later by persuasion. Nothing has worked satisfactorily. Antagonizing the farmers by curbing their poppy farming is a self-defeating exercise. As an extreme measure, the U.S. forces offered to buy out the poppy from the farmers, bring them to Kabul to be processed in a plant to make high-value pain relief drugs need for cancer and other patients. Even here, the invisible hand of the Taliban intervened to put a spoke in the American poppy procurement programme.
Helmund province lying towards the south of Afghanistan is the place where maximum poppy is grown. The drug goes out through routes in Pakistan, later India and Nepal. It is a scourge that has eaten up the vitality of the Afghan youth. A large number of recruits to the Afghan army are drug addicts. They play havoc with the discipline and moral of the fledgling new army.
Islam loathes the consumption of narcotic substances. Even growing and dealing in these drugs is strictly prohibited in Islam, but the Taliban, despite being devout Muslims promote it. Very tragic indeed.