Friday, 14 August 2009
JOURNAL: More on Funding the Taliban
It appears that the US military/government is slowly starting to focus on Taliban funding issues.
Here’s a recap. An estimated half of the Taliban’s funding comes from the protection racket it runs against Afghanistan’s opium/drug industry. Estimates are that it rakes in $70 to $300 million a year from that activity alone. Much of the other half appears to come from protection rackets geared towards US/UN/NATO sponsored reconstruction efforts. Protection rates are 20% of construction costs (which may be a bargain, since private military companies in Iraq cost up to 40%). This equates into a ~$250 million a year budget for a force that pays its soldiers $10 a day (even if all in cost is treble that, the Taliban foot soldier operates at less than 0.4% of the costs of US soldiers).
However, whatever funding they do receive is now likely to surge now that the US is targeting the top 50 leaders of the opium industry in Afghanistan. Despite efforts to claim otherwise, it’s almost a certainty that this will drive much more funding from the $3b opium industry into the Taliban’s coffers (for protection against encroachment from military operations and crop substitution efforts). Worse than pure funding, it will likely enable the Taliban to leverage the industry’s global supply chain to access weapons, equipment, skills, etc. We’ve done so poorly in Mexico against a drug fueled insurgency, it’s probably not prudent to force Afghanistan into that model too — perhaps even with new hybrid tribal/ideological models of narco-jihadi groups ala La Familia?