FBI wanted terrorist in the Taliban regime, a tight slap on the US

FBI designated Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani as the Interior Minister of the caretaken government in Afghanistan is a tight slap on the face of the US administration. This was said by Seth G Jones, a senior vice president of a Washington-based think tank. He told Russian Spunik news agency, Sirajuddin Haqqani has been on the wanted list of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a long time.

He said: “Haqqani was well known to the US military and intelligence community, he escaped several attempts to target him. He is a wily and dangerous enemy with American blood on his hands”.

Biden administration abruptly withdrew from Afghanistan living the country under the mercy of Taliban jihadists as well as Al Qaeda and Haqqani Network. It may be mentioned here that, Haqqani Network mainly comprises Pakistani jihadists. Joe Biden took the decision on the twentieth anniversary of September 11, when in 2001, during the 9/11 attacks on twin towers in New York City thousands of Americans were killed.

According to the intelligence database, Sirajuddin Haqqani is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, Author Jones said in the Wall Street Journal.

Sirajuddin Haqqani became a wanted by the FBI after the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul that killed six people, including an American citizen.

The Taliban appointed several hardliners in its new government who oversaw the 20-year fight against the US-led military coalition.

The list announced by chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was dominated by members of the group’s old guard.

Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund has been appointed Prime Minister with two deputies, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Molavi Abdul Salam Hanafi.

The Haqqani group is known as the ‘right arm’ of the Taliban and assisting the caretaker government in Afghanistan.

Biden’s decision may also constitute a choice to allow Pakistan, which is unable to break away from looking at the world through the prism of its troubled relationship with India, to stew in its own juice as it attempts to ensure that the Taliban remain part of a pro-Pakistani bulwark against the subcontinent’s predominant and—like Pakistan—nuclear power.

In an attempt to make the best of a complex situation, Pakistan, with China not far behind, is hoping that a Taliban-dominated government will favor infrastructure projects that boost the attractiveness of the Chinese-backed Pakistani port of Gwadar as a maritime gateway to landlocked Central Asia.

The subcontinental divide cuts through multiple layers, including religion. The US and Saudi-backed jihadist insurgency that defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s made the Central Asian state as well as Pakistan more susceptible to ultra-conservative Muslim precepts like the Taliban’s repression of women and Pakistan’s blasphemy hysteria.

The Taliban as well as a significant number of Pakistani ultra-conservatives root their worldview in Deobandism, a strand of Islam that emerged in India in the mid-19th century to oppose British colonial rule by propagating an austere interpretation of the faith. Deobandism became prevalent among Pashtuns even as Deobandis in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India went their separate ways after the 1947 partition of the subcontinent.

The divide was widened by Pakistani use of militants as proxies even before the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Zia ul-Haq’s Islamization of Pakistan, the anti-Soviet jihad, and massive past Saudi support for militant Pakistani and Afghan Deobandis and their madrassas (religious seminaries).

Islamic scholars from the Deobandi alma mater in the Uttar Pradesh town of Deoband highlighted the divide earlier this summer by seeking to distance themselves from their Afghan and Pakistani brethren.

Private high net worth individuals from Pakistan and other Gulf countries have been under surveillance for contributing substantially to the Taliban to the tune of US$ 200 million as per a classified CIA report from 2013, which was leaked.

Under the tag of aid for the war on terror, Pakistan has obtained arms, equipment, and ammunition from the US that have been sold at large profits or at times donated to the Taliban. There is no other plausible justification to why the Taliban has access to US arms and ammunition.

The Taliban money trail

The blitzkrieg of the Taliban in Afghanistan is an issue of debate among experts. Apart from determination, a military conquest is also a battle of resources, so where did the Taliban get the funds to conduct their blitz through the nation while they kept negotiating in Doha?

Sergio Restelli, writing in The Times of Israel, said that this brings to the fore the question that even after 20 years of constant efforts to root out the Taliban, how did they have the strength and the capacity, not to mention the wherewithal to press for a military offensive and take the entire nation in a handful of days?

Terrorist groups, like criminal organizations, are not very keen on transparency and accountability, so much forensic financial intelligence is required in these cases to connect the dots and trace the source of funds.

Recently, British media organizations have invested deeply to discover the Taliban’s funding network, reported The Times of Israel.

Apparently, the Taliban financial network is far more complex than was earlier expected. It is a sophisticated financial network with a disciplined taxation system that pays for insurgent operations, salaries, and general services.

Their annual revenue is estimated at around USD 400 million, though some experts peg it to have increased substantially over the last few years to around USD 1.2 billion, said Restelli.

It is suspected that a large part of their income is derived from the narcotics trade. In fact, the Taliban apparently collects about 10 per cent as cultivation tax from opium farmers and 15 per cent as heroin tax from laboratories and smugglers that smuggle narcotics into Pakistan. This, by itself, is a revenue stream estimated at USD 250-300 million.

However, contrary to popular belief, it is not the poppy business that is at the core of the Taliban’s income, said Restelli.

In areas within its control, the Taliban maintains a taxation regime meant to act as a security/protection tax.

Interestingly, a Taliban Financial Commission issues regular diktat to traders and transporters to pay taxes while travelling in areas they control. Oddly enough, the other major source for income generation for the Taliban is energy, telecommunications and mobile operations.

In a letter made public by media outlets, the Electricity Company of Afghanistan went on record to state that the Taliban had been earning more than USD 4-5 million annually by billing electricity consumers in areas it had controlled, Restelli said.

Afghanistan is rich in minerals and precious stones, which were exploited by all sides in the decades of conflict. Most extraction done so far has been done illegally and on a micro-level, though the industry’s potential is estimated to be around USD 1 trillion. Simply by placing roadblocks on routes connecting these mining sites with towns, the Taliban has easily taken control of these mining locations.

In fact, most trucks leaving these sites are forced to dump half of their cargo at gunpoint. Extortion from legal as well as illegal mining operations has increased manifold over the years.

The United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, in their annual report of 2014 of the had stated that even then, the Taliban controlled around 35 mining operations in Helmand province, thereby earning over USD 10 million a year.

The most significant and dangerous source of funding that the Taliban receives is political, from external states. Though Afghanistan’s civilian government and the US have accused regional governments like Iran and, most importantly, Pakistan of financing the terrorist group, such claims have been largely ignored, reported The Times of Israel.

If there was any doubt about the intention and the nexus between the Taliban and Pakistan, one needs to see the days after the fall of Kabul.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan declaration that ‘the Taliban insurrection in Afghanistan is a holy war against the occupation by foreign forces.’ shows Pakistan’s support of a terrorist organization that they have received billions of dollars in aid to destroy.

The global community’s reaction to a Pakistan run, terrorist led Afghanistan, of which the cabinet is a list of terror incorporation’s most wanted, will decide the future of global security.

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