Taliban Money Men Outwit US

Diverse revenue streams defy crackdown efforts
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2009 7:37 AM CDT
In this April 25, 2009, file photo, Afghan farmers work in an opium poppy field in Nawa district of Helmand province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq, file)
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(Newser) – The Taliban is thriving financially, despite the US’ best efforts to clamp down on its cash flow, thanks to a sophisticated collection of revenue streams including foreign donations, criminal activities, and drug trade profits. “I don’t believe we can significantly alter their effectiveness by cutting off their money right now,” one House Intelligence Committee member tells the New York Times. “It’s just bigger and more complex than we can effectively stop.”

“In the past there was a kind of a feeling that the money all came from drugs in Afghanistan,” says one administration official. “That is simply not true.” Officials now believe more money—$106 million last year, by CIA estimates—comes from foreign donors. Most is from private donors, but American spies also suspect Pakistani intelligence of doling out financial aid. And even a successful financial crackdown might mean little. “Their operations are so inexpensive,” says one ex-CIA analyst, “that they can be continued indefinitely.” (Read more Taliban stories.)