President Karzai laid out a National Drug Control Strategy for Afghanistan in 2005, based on four key priorities: (a) disrupting the drug trade by targeting traffickers and their backers; (b) strengthening and diversifying legal rural livelihood; (c) reducing the demand for illicit drugs and treatment of problems of drug users; (d) developing state institutions at the central and provincial levels.
Ironically, both Nato and EU officials recently refused to lead a hand – on role in fighting the narco problem. One reality is that ISAF has only some 52,000 troops on the ground: the Helmand province is home to a significant proportion of ISAF troops and yet still cultivates some 50 percent of the opium produced in Afghanistan. The provinces ‘controlled’ by ISAF, and the nexus between the drug mafia and the Taliban-Al-Qaeda is evidenced by the amount of money which the Taliban are paying to defectors from the Afghan security forces and other officials, as well as in the purchase of weapons for their own use.
Indeed, the Taliban-Al-Qaeda ability to generate income and control derives not just from trafficking in narcotics on their own account, but also on their ability to charge ‘transit fees’ and to demand payments for protection. The whole process of poppy cultivation, transportation, processing, and the like is more than merely a Taliban-Al-Qaeda event; it is pervasive through much of Afghan society, and divides the population from both Isaf and national governance. It is not surprising, therefore, that some 60 to 70 percent of the Afghan parliament is occupied by former Mujahideen, former Communists, drug barons, and warlords, who not only control both houses of parliament but, as a result, prevent the establishment of the central government’s writ across the country.
Now the Associated Press news agency of America has reported that for the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, money is coming mostly from extortion, crime and drugs. Funding for Al-Qaeda is more diverse and included money from new recruits, donations from sympathizers, and a cut of profits from money dealers in Yemen and Pakistan. Juan Carlos, a former US National Security Council adviser on terrorism who worked at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said with respect to the Taliban, the narco-dollars are a major, if not majority, of their funding sources, and add in there as well extortion and kidnapping.” Afghanistan produces more opium than any other country in the world. The Taliban charge drug kingpins to move the opium through their territory. The United Nations estimates their annual cut to be more than $300 million.
Over the last two years, it has turned up the call for donations, told new recruits to bring money with them, and shown signs of being more frugal. This can either mean that it is saving up for another 9/11-style attack, or that the crackdown has curbed its fundraising ability. Estimates of Al-Qaeda’s annual spending vary wildly from $300 million to as low as $10 million. Carlos said its main expenses were payments to families; food and shelter to maintain operations; travel and logistics; money for cells engaged in plots; bribes, and expenses for long-term plans like anthrax research. Some charities with alleged Al-Qaeda connections have renamed themselves. In Kuwait, the Revival Islamic Heritage Society, believed by the US to be heavily financing Al-Qaeda, is still operating. Because of demands from the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan has removed restrictions on the amount of money that can be brought into the country. It has limited to $10,000 the money that can leave the country, cracking down on some of the biggest hawala dealers. “Once the money is inside the country, it is difficult to locate it. Smugglers and transporters help finance the Taliban either out of sympathy for their cause or because they are being forced to give a share.”
Islamabad, February 17.