The significant role played by Pakistan in providing men, money and training to the Taliban warrants special mention. A popular belief in global diplomatic and military circles is that the Taliban is dependent on Pakistan for its sustenance. Though Islamabad tries to deny these allegations, its backing of the jihadis is too obvious and evident to be overlooked. Writes Ashlyn Davis
A band of jihadis in a poor country defeated American-backed Afghan troops, which, says President Biden, was one of the most well-equipped forces, as good as any army in the world. Is that not perplexing? One indication of why this happened is the fact that the annual budget of the Taliban is 30 times greater than was Afghanistan’s allotted budget for its army. The Taliban are no longer the untidy, unkempt, disheveled militia we saw on grainy videos from the mid-1990s to early 2000s.
The Taliban’s shining artilleries are brand new, their High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (Humvees) are smoothly tearing across Afghan terrain. Their immaculate coiffures are a significant contrast to their rumpled appearances of yore. They will still cane Afghan women and execute men they deem to be enemies of Allah, but they will do it in style.
The Taliban are now a disciplined, well-off legion. Their stomachs are full, and their pockets are heavy: the Taliban is flush with funds and is one of the world’s most well-financed jihad terror outfits.
Forbes listed the Taliban, with its modest yearly turnover of $400 million, as the fifth richest of ten ‘terrorist’ organizations in a 2016 feature. ISIS, which at that time was bringing in $2 billion USD annually, topped the list. Forbes also enumerated extortion of protection money, drug trafficking, and donations as the primary sources from which the Taliban generated its revenue.
However, if a confidential North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) report accessed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is to be believed, the annual budget of Afghanistan’s homegrown jihad group has experienced a 400 per cent hike in four years, rising to the whopping sum of $1.6 billion in the fiscal year 2019-20.
Evidently, in the past few years, the Taliban has ventured into diverse areas and expanded its channels of income, which has led to its exponential growth. RFE/RF has provided a breakdown of the proceeds, listing the varied means through which the organization made its dollars. The Taliban has generated $464 million from mining activities, $416 million from drug dealing, $240 million from exports, another $240 million from foreign donations, $160 million from extortion money recorded as taxes, and $80 million from real estate dealings. The report had also highlighted how the Taliban leadership was aiming to be economically self-sufficient in order to enable the organization to emerge as a sovereign political and military entity.
As per reports, the Taliban had received an estimated $500 million from foreign sources in 2017-18. This made for about 50% of their total funding. With their focus on achieving economic self-sufficiency, the militant outfit had gradually reduced its reliance on donations and contributions from overseas; the proceeds from foreign sources made up only 15% of the Taliban’s total proceeds in the year 2020.
In that same year, the Afghan government’s yearly budget stood at $5.5 billion, with less than two percent of this allotted for its military. The major chunk of funding the Afghan troops received came from the United States, which also bore the cost of other measures taken to keep the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan. The US shelled out close to a trillion dollars over the last two decades in either fighting the Taliban or in training Afghan troops to fight these jihadis.
The significant role played by Pakistan in providing men, money and training to the Taliban warrants special mention. A popular belief in global diplomatic and military circles is that the Taliban is dependent on Pakistan for its sustenance. Though Islamabad tries to deny these allegations, its backing of the jihadis is too obvious and evident to be overlooked.
Pakistan has hosted jihad training camps for decades and indoctrinated students of madrassas to partake in the ongoing jihad in Afghanistan. Jihad is publicly preached in Pakistani mosques and on the streets of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province that borders on Afghanistan. Islamic clerics throughout Pakistan seek support and donations for the jihadist outfit. The internet is swarming with stories about Taliban recruits receiving training on handling arms and weapons in Pakistan. Hundreds of Pakistanis have crossed into Afghanistan to join forces with the Taliban in their combat.
Dozens of such citizens have been killed in fighting the Afghan forces in the past few months, according to residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. Also, injured Taliban jihadis have been carried to Pakistan and were given treatment in Pakistani hospitals. This was revealed by a local doctor from the border town of Chaman, Pakistan.
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