Counter-Terrorism: Gangsters Are Your Friends


December 3,
While Islamic radicals, and radicals in general, are big fans of law (Islamic
law, these days) and order (their own interpretation), they are more flexible
when it comes to organized criminals. Thus the Taliban in Afghanistan and
Pakistan have both formed alliances with local criminal gangs. Why would
criminals ally with a bunch of religious fanatics devoted to imposing strict
adherence to Islamic law? Mainly, it's a matter of self preservation, and such.
The Taliban
and al Qaeda are basically large criminal organization, with an emphasis on
lots of firepower and itchy trigger fingers. The criminal gangs in the area
recognize that their only choice is to work with the new criminals in the area.
It's either that or go out of business, or worse. So when the Taliban ask for
some help, or a little coordination, the gangs oblige. Thus when the gangs
kidnap someone for ransom, they check with the Taliban to see if the new
captive is of interest to the Islamic radicals. If so, the gang sells their
captive to the Taliban. They don't get as much as they would via a ransom, but
they do make some money, and earn points with the big boys. Similar relations
developed when the Taliban decided to try and shut down U.S./NATO supply
shipments from Pakistan. The local gangs have long been grabbing what they
could from the hundreds of trucks that cross the border each day. That's always
dangerous, as the trucks roll with the protection of local tribes (who tend to
shoot first and investigate later, when it comes to thieves.)
When the
Taliban ran Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they had excellent relations with
the numerous drug (opium and heroin) gangs. That's mainly because the drugs
were so lucrative that the gangs could afford to pay high taxes to the Taliban.
Other types
of terrorists use the same approach. When the Soviet Union was still around,
the KGB (secret police) had officers who specialized in "working" the
criminal gangs at home, and abroad. They saw the gangs as mercenaries for jobs
the KGB could not, or did not want to, carry out. In return, the gangs got
"get out jail free" cards and other favors. Saddam Hussein, for
example, went into business with some of
the Iraqi criminal gangs, taking a hefty share of the profits, or simply taxing
gangs he was not partnering with. Beyond that, the gangs were a source of
intelligence, and enforcers.
As long as
the organized gangs stay organized and don't threaten the political order,
tyrants, secular and religious, always have use for those on the Dark Side.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close