Financing the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

Some Taliban and al Qaeda support comes from radical Salafists in Saudi Arabia, but the Taliban also harvest their own support. Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know that we’re not particularly fond of the notion of mixing the war on drugs with Operation Enduring Freedom, since the idea of destruction of a farmer’s means of income does not comport with the need to win the population.

What about support for the Taliban from poppy? This has been asked thousands of times in the main stream media, and indeed, the State Department wants badly to war against drugs in Afghanistan. So do some military (mostly Army, not any Marines to our knowledge, since Marine operations in Helmand specifically avoided destruction of crops).

Our contention all along has been that the problem is not poppy, any more than it is any other crop. It’s the Taliban, and they are more than capable of obtaining income through bullying tactics whether from farmers who grow poppy or women who weave clothing with yarn. The Taliban have begun heavy handed tactics of taxation of various businesses to support their campaign.

PESHAWAR: The Taliban are financing their “jihad” against the United States and supporting the families of the militants killed in the war with private taxation, besides Zakat and Ushr.

Sources close to militants, tribal elders and government officials in various tribal regions where Taliban-linked militancy has paralysed business told Daily Times that the organisation has not made a uniform policy on Zakat so far.

Taliban vary the taxation from area to area and depending on the financial status of traders. Bajaur is the worst case, where reports say the Taliban have imposed fixed taxes on traders, ranging from Rs 30 to Rs 25,000 per month.

“I pay Rs 500 a month to the Taliban as per their decree,” said Rustam Khan, who runs a small business in the Khar bazaar. “I can afford to pay the sum, otherwise it would have been great injustice.”

Maulana Waheed, in charge of Zakat for Taliban in Bajaur, said the total collection was around Rs 175,000 so far – much lower than what Taliban need to spend. Waheed denied the Taliban were forcing Khar residents to pay Zakat to them, but accepted collecting 12,000 kilogrammes of wheat as Ushr from farmers.

Fuel stations give 120 litres of fuel each to the Taliban, who are frequently on the move to avoid United States spy planes.

“That is true, we provide a certain quantity of fuel to the Taliban as per their desire and our contribution for jihad,” said a manager at one of the fuel stations in Khar.

In the neighbouring Mohmand tribal region, the Taliban are not collecting Zakat, but seek contributions from harvested crops and also collect skins of sacrificed animals.

The Maulvi Nazir-led Taliban in Ahmedzai Wazir areas of South Waziristan collect neither Zakat nor Ushr, but the heavy fines they impose on the residents are one of the main sources of revenue to run the “Movement for Return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan”.

It doesn’t have to be small local businesses; it can be larger industrial operations as well.

ZIARAT, Pakistan — The Taliban’s takeover in April of the Ziarat marble quarry, a coveted national asset, is one of the boldest examples of how they have made Pakistan’s tribal areas far more than a base for training camps or a launchpad for sending fighters into Afghanistan.

A rare, unescorted visit to the region this month revealed how the Taliban are grabbing territory, using the income they exact to strengthen their hold and turn themselves into a self-sustaining fighting force. The quarry alone has brought tens of thousands of dollars, said Zaman, a tribal leader.

The seizure of the quarry is a measure of how, as the Pakistani military has pulled back under a series of peace deals, the Pakistani Taliban have extended their reach through more of the rugged 600-mile-long territory in northern Pakistan known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.

The quarry here in the Mohmand tribal district, strategically situated between Peshawar and the Afghan border, is a new effort by the Taliban to harness the region’s abundant natural resources of coal, gold, copper and chromate.

Of all the minerals in the tribal areas, the marble from Ziarat is one of the most highly prized for use in expensive floors and walls in Pakistan, and in limited quantities abroad.

A government body, the FATA Development Authority, had failed over the past several years to mediate a dispute between the Masaud and Gurbaz subtribes over how the mining rights to the marble should be allocated, according to Pakistani government officials familiar with the quarry.

The Taliban came eager for a share of the business. Their reputation for brutality and the weakness of the local government allowed them to settle the dispute in short order.

The Taliban decided that one mountain in the Ziarat area belonged to the Masaud division of the main Safi tribe, and said the Gurbaz subtribe would be rewarded another mountain, Zaman, the contractor, said.

The mountain assigned to the Masauds was divided into 30 portions, he said, and each of six area villages was assigned five of the 30 portions.

Zaman said the Taliban demanded $1,500 commission upfront for each portion, giving the insurgents a quick $45,000.

The Taliban also demanded a $7 tax on each truckload of marble, he said. With a constant flow of trucks, the Taliban were collecting up to $500 a day, Zaman said.

There are no magic tricks to perform. Get rid of the poppy, and you don’t get rid of the Taliban. Get rid of the marble quarry, and you don’t get rid of the Taliban. In fact, squeezing the financiers in Saudi Arabia, while a good tactics and hopefully fully in process, won’t get rid of the Taliban.

It isn’t about the poppy, marble or financiers from the house of Saud. It’s about the religious radicals practicing jihad because of their belief system, who would fight to the death to destroy the West. There is no solution except to kill them. Many in Afghanistan suffer under their yoke, and providing security for them is the other part of the equation. This requires forces and kinetic operations.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Jihadists,Taliban and was published August 15th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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