Taliban are in much stronger financial shape than Al-Qaeda and rely on a wide range of criminal activities to pay for attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, a senior Treasury Department official said Monday, reports The Washington Post.
David Cohen, the Departments Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, said the group extorts money from poppy farmers and heroin traffickers involved in Afghanistans booming drug trade.
The Taliban also demand protection payments from legitimate Afghan businesses, he said during a speech at a conference on money laundering enforcement. Cohens assessment came as US President Barack Obama and his top advisers discuss whether many more troops may be needed in the eight-year-old Afghanistan conflict.
A critical part of the deliberations is whether the fight should be a more narrow one against Al-Qaeda or a broader battle against the Taliban-led insurgency.
According to Cohen, Al-Qaeda is a cash-strapped organisation that is losing its clout. That condition is the product, he said, of a long-running effort by the US and its allies to cut off the terror groups sources of funding by targeting its deep-pocketed donors and interfering with its ability to move money.
In the first half of 2009, he said, Al-Qaedas leaders made four public appeals for money to bolster recruitment and training.
We assess that Al-Qaeda is in its weakest financial condition in several years, and that, as a result, its influence is waning, Cohen said at the conference, sponsored by the American Bankers Association and the American Bar Association.
But Cohen cautioned that situation could reverse quickly because a pool of donors who are ready, willing and able to contribute to Al-Qaeda still exists.
The Taliban, meanwhile, appear to be heading in the other direction despite an international effort to shut down the movements cash supply. Drugs are a major money maker for the group.
But Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administrations special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has said the Taliban get most of their cash from private benefactors in the Persian Gulf.
Cohen claimed portions of the Talibans illicit proceeds make their way out of the country and into the global financial system. But he did not specify how much or detail the moneys suspected entry points.