Intelligence: The Best Intel Drug Money Can Buy

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April 20, 2007: The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have come into quite a lot of money lately. Tens of millions of dollars. That's been the main reason behind the increased Taliban violence in the last two years. The money pays young tribesmen to join the "holy war" against the Afghan government, and the foreign troops who are helping out. The money also buys help within the government. Many members of the government are either paid off by drug gangs, for information or more personal involvment. The money buys intelligence on what the police and army are up to. As a result, NATO and American troops have to be careful about how much information they share with Afghan security forces.

Some of the new Taliban cash comes from wealthy Islamic conservatives in the Persian Gulf, but most comes from drug gangs. These are Pushtuns, as are the Taliban, and they have been making a lot of money growing poppies, processing them into opium and heroin, and transporting most of the drugs out of the region. The drug lords need protection, and the Taliban has a history of providing it. When the Taliban ran the country, they taxed the drug trade heavily, but otherwise left the drug lords alone. When the UN threatened to cut off aid because of this, the Taliban declared that, for one year, no poppies would be grown. It later turned out that the drug gangs had built up a huge surplus of drugs, more than they could get out of the country. The Taliban "drug ban" took care of that surplus problem, and kept the foreign aid coming.

But this time around, the Taliban have declared the drug business Gods Work if it is used to help fight the infidel foreigners. And now that there's lot of cash around, the money is proving to be one of the most useful weapons in the Taliban arsenal. That's because the biggest Taliban weakness has been intelligence. The foreign troops have UAVs and recon aircraft that are too quick to spot large groups of Taliban fighters moving around. Often, it's Afghan troops and police who are fed the information on where the Taliban appear to be. But by spreading around enough cash, the Taliban are increasingly able to get someone to tip them off. More and more, Taliban groups spotted, either from the air, or by villagers, have scattered before the security forces can confront them.

Before all that money came along, there were a few leaks. Mostly from cops who were conflicted over fighting the Taliban. But now there are a growing number of wealthy police and soldiers, who have valuable information to sell. And the Taliban is able and willing to buy.

 


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