Taliban’s drug money funding overestimated

So how much drug money does the Taliban rely on for survival and ops? Apparently not that much, according to a Senate report sharing the findings of CIA and DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) investigations…but enough that it still amounts to a fair share of their financing. How’s that for vague?

Opium poppy field in AfghanistanDon’t worry – we’ve got some stats for you as well. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime originally estimated that the Taliban was getting about $400 million/year of the cash brought in by Afghanistan’s poppy fields, which supply approximately 90% of the world’s heroin. U.S. intelligence reports that the number’s closer to $70 million – a huge difference, obviously, but still a rather hefty sum, especially considering that Al Qaeda gets no significant funding from drugs.

Obviously the Taliban insurgents get funding from other sources as well (think rich patrons in the Gulf), but the Senate report also reminds us that the Taliban’s war is “relatively cheap.”

As for the whole narcotics industry powered by the Afghani poppy fields, U.S. intelligence is committed to getting a handle on that as well. Gone are the days of attacking the fields themselves, which was the tactic during Bush’s administration. No poppies, no drugs, no drug money, no drug problem, right? Apparently not as effective an approach as one would think.

Now the focus is more on the people involved – the network of people who harvest, package, sell and transport the stuff, and the drug lords who pull all the strings. A dedicated Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence unit has been established at the U.S. air base in Bagram to improve intel on the criminal drug networks in Afghanistan.

Fighting the illegal drug trade with intelligence helped to capture and convict the mastermind behind the third largest drug network in Afghanistan earlier this year; evidence procured by monitoring cell phone conversations was extremely helpful in securing the conviction.

images courtesy of salem-news.com, kennedy121.wordpress.com

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