Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

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Terror funding & financial crime predictions for 2014

December 31, 2013
  1. As U.S. troops depart Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban is poised for a banner year, financially speaking.  The Pakistani Taliban is laying the groundwork for a resurgence too, accumulating money from an extortion spree against businessmen (see here, here, here, here, and here) throughout 2013.
  2. The 28-page section of the 2002 report from Joint Congressional Inquiry into Sept. 11, 2001, implicating Saudi financing of the 9/11 hijackers could either be declassified or leaked in 2014.  Enough of a consensus is gathering that the section was redacted for diplomatic purposes, and should be disclosed so the American people know the truth (or at least more of the truth than is already known about Saudi Arabia’s role in financing global terrorism).
  3. “A major data destruction attack will happen,” and ransomware will be involved.  Websense explains, “Historically, most attackers have used a network breach to steal information for profit. In 2014, organizations will need to be concerned about nation-states and cyber-criminals using a breach to destroy data. Ransomware will play a part in this trend and move down market to small and medium sized organizations.”
  4. Narendra Modi could become elected prime minister of India next year.  Mr. Modi has spoken out against corruption, black money, hawala, and terrorism to a greater degree than the current ruling Congress party.  His victory would represent a significant threat to the established criminal and terrorist underworld in India and Kashmir that are being backed by Pakistan.
  5. New legislation including, at the federal level, renewed sanctions against Iran, and at the state level, sharia law bans (“American laws for American courts” initiatives), and anti-fraud legislation at the state level dealing with no-fault car insurance fraud and counterfeit airbags, may be enacted in 2014.

Some other thoughts come to us from the Council on Foreign Relations, which has published an interesting forecast of 2014 based on surveys of public officials and experts, including the possibility of major terrorist attacks in the U.S., in Kashmir, and by al-Shabaab against Somalia’s neighbors.

Incidentally, prosecutors in the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are pushing for a fall 2014 trial, although defense lawyers have argued that will be too soon.

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2014 will be bumper year for Taliban

December 1, 2013

One of the most striking failures of counterterror finance since 9/11 has been the international inability to de-fund the Taliban.  The Taliban has maintained robust, balanced revenue sources that haven’t changed too much from the type and amount of money they collected to propel them to power in the 1990s.  As ISAF troops depart, the Taliban is poised to profit even more, according to a new UN report reviewed by The Guardian:

…The Taliban remains a powerful and well-funded force, the report says, with the movement raising $155m in 2012 from illegal opium production.

Although the amount of protection money that insurgents receive from security companies employed to guard Nato supply convoys has fallen as foreign forces close bases, the report says 2014 is expected to be a bumper year as the alliance ships huge amounts of equipment out of the country.

It also warns that the Taliban is skimming profit off illegally mined gemstones, including rubies and emeralds. Afghanistan has an estimated $1tn worth of mineral reserves, which it is hoped will eventually help to pay for the country’s 352,000-strong security force.

The report says Kabul needs to do much more to prevent high-grade industrial explosives reaching the hands of Taliban bomb-makers, whose weapons are becoming “increasingly sophisticated and technically advanced” and now account for 80% of army and police casualties…

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Washington Post: lost battle against narcotics in Afghanistan one of “starkest failures” of Obama war strategy

November 18, 2013

On its news pages, not its opinion section, the Washington Post reports the U.S. has “lost its battle” against drugs in Afghanistan.  The collusion between Afghan elites and the poppy industry will only get worse as U.S. troops exit.  One Afghan official is quoted as saying, “the drug economy is fueling terrorism, destabilizing the region and the global village. It is vanishing the achievements of the past 10 years.”

The Taliban is one of the beneficiaries of this industry, from which traditional Islamic ushr taxation on poppy harvests and other drug profits will enable them to keep more fighters on the payroll, buy more weapons, and launch more attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond.

As U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, poppy trade it spent billions fighting still flourishes

By Ernesto Londoño, Published: November 3

The United States is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan having lost its battle against the country’s narcotics industry, marking one of the starkest failures of the 2009 strategy the Obama administration pursued in an effort to turn around the war.

Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion since 2002 to combat it, the country’s opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade, according to law enforcement officials and counternarcotics experts. As the war economy contracts, opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, are poised to play an ever larger role in the country’s economy and politics, undercutting two key U.S. goals: fighting corruption and weakening the link between the insurgency and the drug trade.

The Afghan army opted this spring for the first time in several years not to provide security to eradication teams in key regions, forgoing a dangerous mission that has long embittered rural Afghans who depend on the crop for their livelihoods.

Experts say that, in the end, efforts over the past decade to rein in cultivation were stymied by entrenched insecurity in much of the country, poverty, and the ambivalence — and, at times, collusion — of the country’s ruling class.

With a presidential election just months away, political will for anti-drug initiatives is weak among members of the Afghan elite, many of whom have become increasingly dependent on the proceeds of drugs as foreign funding dries up, said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, who heads the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan. “Money is less and less available within the licit economy,” he said. “The real danger is the weakened resistance to corruption and to involvement in a distorted political economy, which weakens your resistance to collusion with the enemy”…

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Afghan Taliban funds mayhem in Pakistan

October 28, 2013

The Pakistani Taliban, which seeks the overthrow of the government of Pakistan and a deeper implementation of sharia law there, is receiving financial assistance from the Afghan Taliban.  The irony is that the Afghan Taliban itself is funded by the Pakistan’s spy service, the ISI.

This story illustrates, once again, that attempting to use jihadists as a strategic asset always comes back to haunt those who thought they could control them.  Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and certain agencies of and politicians in Western governments repeatedly make this mistake.

This news on the Taliban boomerang came from the Associated Press earlier this month, and the AP even branded it a “Big Story,” but sadly seems to have received scant attention.  Thanks to Arye Leonid Glozman for sending over a link to it:

Afghan Taliban supporting Pakistani militants

By ISHTIAQ MAHSUD

— Oct. 7, 2013

WAZIRISTAN, Pakistan (AP) — The Afghan Taliban are financially supporting Pakistani militants at war with Islamabad and providing sanctuary for them in neighboring Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban’s spokesman said, highlighting the risk both groups pose to the Pakistani government.

The disclosure, which the spokesman made Saturday in an interview with a small group of reporters, is meaningful because Pakistan has long been accused of pursuing a policy of differentiating between the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban as so-called “good” and “bad” militants — even though Islamabad denies this.

Pakistan has waged war against the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks to replace the country’s democratic system with one based on Islamic law. But it has held off on targeting the Afghan Taliban, which has focused its attacks on U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan has historical ties with the Afghan Taliban, and many analysts believe Islamabad views the group as a useful ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

But the Taliban spokesman’s comments illustrate the dangerous nexus between the two groups. This link could become even more dangerous for Pakistan as the U.S. withdraws most of its combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That could give the Afghan Taliban more space to operate inside Afghanistan, which could benefit Islamabad’s enemies in the Pakistani Taliban.

“The Afghan Taliban are our jihadi brothers,” Shahidullah Shahid said in an interview in Waziristan, the Taliban’s main tribal sanctuary in Pakistan along the Afghan border. “In the beginning, we were helping them, but now they are strong enough and they don’t need our help, but they are now supporting us financially.”

The Afghan Taliban are also providing sanctuary for a prominent Pakistani Taliban commander, Mullah Fazlullah, in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province, said Shahid. Fazlullah was the commander of the Taliban in Pakistan’s northwest Swat Valley but was driven into Afghanistan when the Pakistani army launched a big offensive there in 2009.

The army has also staged many offensives in Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal region, the Taliban’s main sanctuary, but the militants have proven resilient and continue to carry out regular attacks.

The Taliban have financed many of these attacks through a combination of kidnappings, extortion and bank robberies. But Shahid’s comments indicate these sources of financing do not always provide the funds they need.

The government has more recently stepped up efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban, but those efforts do not appear to be making much progress…

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Terrorists lose out on heroin money

October 21, 2013

Time to salute the crew of the Toronto, which has once again carried out a major drug bust on the high seas.  Most likely, profits from the heroin sales would have inured to the benefit of the Taliban.

Thanks to El Grillo for sending this over from CTV News:

Heroin seized by Canadian warship linked to terrorist groups: commander

A commander on board a Canadian warship that seized more than 180 kilograms of heroin says the drug came from suppliers in the Middle East and is linked to terrorist groups.

HMCS Toronto Cmdr. Matthew Bowen said the drugs were destined for recipients in Africa, and would have funded “extremist elements.”

He said the drugs likely have ties to terrorist organizations with connections to Afghanistan.

“We have information that leads us to believe (the heroin) is definitely linked to terrorist organizations,” Bowen told CTV News on Sunday.

The massive drug bust took place approximately 800 kilometres east of the Horn of Africa. Crew members of the HMCS Toronto boarded a suspected smuggling ship and seized 154 bags of heroin.

Bowen said the operation went “smoothly.”

“Once (the smuggling ships) are confronted with a very large helicopter, a significant and well-armed boarding party that clearly knows their tactics, knows how to look after security with again, a very large warship in the background, they don’t tend to give us any trouble.”

The 258-crew frigate, which was on patrol in the Arabian Sea, is part of a multinational counter-terrorism effort.

Bowen said his crew has achieved its goal and they will not be pursuing the “middle men” involved in the drug operation.

“Once we have the drugs in our possession and we dispose of them, we’ve achieved the goal of what we want to do, which is to deny terrorist organizations the funding that comes from being involved in these kinds of smuggling operations,” he said…

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Taliban nets 650 million rupees from ransoms

September 27, 2013

In the last 18 months, the Taliban has received at least Rs 650 million (over 6 million USD), in ransoms for kidnapping businessmen in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan.  The International News speculates that the real figure is higher than official reports—probably billions of Pakistan rupees.  Some of the captives’ families are able to pay the ransoms; some are not.  Those who don’t are killed:

Over Rs650m paid to Taliban as ransom

Billions of rupees paid but not reported; police, agencies totally flopped

Usman Manzoor

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Despite the payment of hundreds of millions from taxpayers’ money, not only the police but all the intelligence and law enforcement agencies have failed to trace extortion and kidnapping for ransom cases in the federal capital and Rawalpindi, being carried out by the Taliban.

Latest official documents show that some Rs650 million have been paid to the Taliban by the businessmen of the twin cities during the last 18 months alone. The billions of rupees paid have not been reported to the police and agencies, and the businessmen have dealt secretly with the Taliban to save their lives.

Documents available with The News reveal that in Rawalpindi and Islamabad alone, a list of 45 cases of kidnapping for ransom and extortion has been prepared in which Rs653 million have been paid to Taliban while billions have remained undiscovered…

The report submitted to the high-ups of the police, accompanied by the list of 45 cases since January 2012, states that at least four traders have been killed by the Taliban for not obeying their command to pay ransom and extortion money…

The Taliban is biding their time until U.S. troops leave Afghanistan.  They’ve got plenty of money in the bank from schemes like this to coopt, bribe, or conquer Karzai.  While asset freezes and sanctions against Al Qaeda have been somewhat useful, Western financial pressure on the Taliban has been ineffective for a decade.

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Term of the week: Afghan Trade Transit

August 28, 2013

In their 2010 book, Cassara and Jorisch defined the Afghan Trade Transit (ATT) as:

A regional agreement between landlocked Afghanistan and its neighbors that allows goods to be imported into the country with preferential duties.  The trade has resulted in massive smuggling and trade fraud, and it continues to facilitate the laundering of narcotics proceeds that help finance the Taliban.

The ATT agreement has since been modified, and merchandise that passes from Afghanistan through Pakistan has diminished by 50 percent according to a recent report from the major Pakistani newspaper Dawn.  Nevertheless, Dawn’s sources say that the renegotiated treaty really only hurts normal trade, but that smuggling continues unabated:

… A customs official familiar with these developments told Dawn that including stringent clauses in the treaty were unlikely to help curb smuggling.

“Now containers imported through Iranian ports are smuggled to Pakistan through the same routes,” he said.

The only difference, the official added, was that earlier a huge number of Pakistanis were getting jobs directly or indirectly, and now they were transferred to Iran. He said: “The smuggling can only be discouraged through reducing duties on smuggling-prone items and effective surveillance of the border”…

Guess the Taliban can breathe easy again.

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Contract mismanagement still benefits Taliban

August 16, 2013

It is only partly an Army failure. It is, more centrally, a strategic and political failure. It’s a strategic failure of counter-insurgency doctrine that says we can peel away enough “moderate” Taliban supporters to reconcile with Karzai by bribing them with U.S., U.N., NATO, and Afghan government contracts and jobs. And it’s a political failure of believing that we can dump taxpayer dollars oversees to conduct nation building in a notoriously corrupt country without aiding the wrong parties.

Thanks to El Grillo for sending this in from this Christian Science Monitor:

US auditor finds taxpayer money flowing to Taliban, Al Qaeda – but Army refuses to act

Warnings from the US government’s internal auditor that an ongoing $20 billion Afghanistan reconstruction program is lining the pockets of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been ignored.

By Dan Murphy, Staff writer / July 30, 2013

The US military has been ignoring warnings that its spending in Afghanistan is funding Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), appears to have had enough.

He issued a blistering cover letter with SIGAR’s quarterly report to Congress today that called into question what “appears to be a growing gap between the policy objectives of Washington and the reality of achieving them in Afghanistan.”

The US has $20 billion of Afghan reconstruction spending scheduled, and a further $10 billion requested for the 2014 budget. But after 11 years of war, there are “serious shortcomings in US oversight of contracts: poor planning, delayed or inadequate inspections, insufficient documentation, dubious decisions, and – perhaps most troubling – a pervasive lack of accountability,” Mr. Sopko wrote. Good intentions, he added, appear to be running way ahead of commitment to execution.

But Sopko’s greatest degree of scorn is reserved for ongoing contracting with businesses that his office is convinced finance the insurgents trying to topple the US-supported Afghan government and kill US troops.

“In conclusion I would also like to reiterate the concerns I raised in our last report about the Army’s refusal to act on SIGAR’s recommendations to prevent supporters of the insurgency, including supporters of the Taliban, the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda, from receiving government contracts. SIGAR referred 43 such cases to the Army recommending suspension and debarment, based on detailed supporting information demonstrating that these individuals and companies are providing material support to the insurgency in Afghanistan. But the Army rejected all 43 cases. The Army Suspension and Debarment Office appears to believe that suspension or debarment of these individuals and companies would be a violation of their due process rights if based on classified information or if based on findings by the Department of Commerce.

I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the US government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract”…

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Covert finance: recommended reading

June 20, 2013
  • Egyptian imam says that zakat is being used to fund fightersmore>>
  • With prepaid cards and fraud, the sky’s the limit… more>>
  • Sick of drug money funding terrorism? Plant science has developed to the point where we could eradicate the coca shrub and opium poppy, if we really wanted to… more>>
  • Sanctions violation:  the president of Panama’s private trading company is shipping 20 containers a month to Iranmore>>
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Frigate interdicts 6 tons of terror-linked hashish

June 19, 2013

Canadian navy busts narco-mariners in the Arabian Sea

The drugs probably originated from Afghanistan with the Taliban or the Haqqani network involved in the supply chain, including a 10 pe.  The commanding officer of the warship Toronto noted that “Every dollar we deny these terrorist organizations works toward making our world a safer place.”

From the National Post on June 6:

Canadian warship HMCS Toronto seizes six tonnes of hashish in counter-terror operation

The Royal Canadian Navy ship HMCS Toronto seized six tonnes of hashish in its largest narcotics bust to date since beginning counter-terror operations in the Arabian Sea, the Department of National Defence says.

The Toronto‘s crew made the discovery during an inspection of a ship on May 30th and DND says the hashish was recovered and destroyed without incident.

DND did not provide specific details on the raid but provided photos showing armed sailors in bullet-proof vests and helmets on board the small vessel.

It was the largest hashish seizure in the history of the 29-nation member Combined Maritime Forces, coming not long after a massive heroin bust by the same ship.

To date, Toronto has seized more than 7.3 tonnes of narcotics since March, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in street value, DND says.

“I am extremely proud of the high level of proficiency and tenacity that my crew has shown on this deployment. The outstanding work of all onboard has contributed to these record narcotics seizures,” said Commander Jeff Hamilton, Commanding Officer of HMCS Toronto…

The Globe & Mail notes that “The six tonnes of cannabis resin are the largest hashish seizure in the history of the combined maritime forces.”

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Cash for Karzai in suitcases, backpacks, and grocery bags

April 30, 2013

Good old Uncle Moneybags is back, but this time his sacks are filled with American money for distribution to cronies and warlords.  From the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

Men in dark coats with facial hair and millions of dollars

Karzai Confirms Accepting CIA Cash Monthly for 10 Years

By JUHANA ROSSI in Helsinki and YAROSLAV TROFIMOV in Kabul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday acknowledged that his office has been receiving money from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency over the past 10 years, dismissing the monthly cash payments as a “small amount.”

Mr. Karzai addressed the issue after the New York Times reported on Sunday that the CIA has made tens of millions of dollars in secret payments, often cash packed in shopping bags, as it sought to maintain influence over Afghanistan’s mercurial leader.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, here in Brussels last week, Monday confirmed that his government has been receiving CIA money for a decade, but dismissed it as a ‘small amount.’

“Yes, the office of the national security has been receiving support from the United States for the past 10 years,” Mr. Karzai told reporters at a news briefing in Helsinki, Finland, responding to a question about whether he has received CIA cash. “Monthly. Not a big amount. A small amount which has been used for various purposes.”

The CIA declined to comment on the matter.

Mr. Karzai, who is touring Northern Europe, made the remarks following his meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

The U.S. isn’t the only country to supply the Afghan presidential palace with secret money. In 2010, Mr. Karzai acknowledged receiving bags full of euros from the government of Iran.

Afghan officials have said that these secret funds have been used by the president to reward supporters and buy loyalty from tribal leaders…

Time to take a second look at the proposal to cease foreign aid in Afghanistan?  Or is that still considered “a bit dramatic“?

By the way, if a U.S. company did what a federal agency has done by transferring money to Karzai, that company would be prosecuted under the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Money Jihad has previously covered the money that Hamid Karzai received from Iran here.

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