Cutting off the Taliban cash flow


Barack Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan today announced a new US campaign to try to stem the flow of foreign funds to the Taliban, money believed to be running into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, mainly from the Gulf Arab states.

Richard Holbrooke, the former Balkan peace enforcer appointed by the White House to lead a new US policy on Afghanistan and place greater emphasis on Pakistan, said most of the money fuelling the insurgency came from supporters abroad, including in western Europe, and exceeded the Taliban's earnings from the opium and heroin trade.

The Taliban were the beneficiaries of "massive amounts of money from outside Afghanistan", Holbrooke said.

He declined to put a figure on the external funds, but the opium poppy trade and heroin refining operations are estimated to net the Taliban at least $400m (£244m) every year.

Led by officials at the US treasury and including Pentagon, FBI and CIA personnel, a new "task force on drugs and money" will try to weaken the Islamist insurgents, Holbrooke said.

"The money is coming in from sympathisers from all over the world with the bulk of it appearing to come from the Gulf, not any money we know of coming from governments," Holbrooke said. "Money is probably coming from sympathisers in western Europe as well. This is a huge problem."

In Brussels to discuss the Afghan campaign and the refugee crisis in Pakistan's Swat valley with senior EU and Nato officials, Holbrooke added that the Taliban used drug money locally to fund their operations in the "Pashtun belt", but that the more significant financial support came from abroad.


Maybe the New York Times will promote use of the Swift program in Europe for tracing the funds. OK, that is the program they "blew the whistle" on when the Bush administration was using it to trace terrorist funds. Their rationale for doing so never made much sense to me so I will not try to repeat it. The best way to cut off the funds is normally through cutting of banking operations. The Taliban probably have alternative ways of flowing the funds, but the people giving them the money probably do have to take it out of their banks and that may be a good starting place.


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