Drones better than CFT at bankrupting Taliban

December 30, 2012

How do you freeze assets of a terrorist organization that never relied heavily on the formal banking system?  That’s quite a challenge, and conventional methods of combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) have proved to be poorly suited to the primitive, low-tech nature of the Taliban’s treasury.

This article from the Hindustan Times (h/t to Jeff at Counter Jihad Knights) illustrates the difficulty of slowing down the Pakistani Taliban, a.k.a. Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), by intercepting its financial systems.  It appears as though good old-fashioned bomb dropping is working better at keeping the TTP leaderless and listless, although we still have an awfully long way to go:

Pakistan Taliban’s new jihad

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), sometimes called the Pakistan Taliban, is gaining new ground or is on its last legs, depending on who you talk to. Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik insists that the TTP is “on the verge of collapse” given that its channel of funding is effectively being choked by the government.

“They earned most of their money from bank robberies and kidnappings, and we have contained those,” maintains Malik. He says that funding from abroad has also been checked. Some prominent and not so prominent money changers who facilitated these transfers are now behind bars.

Most observers think otherwise. Recent attacks by the Taliban have become more brazen, like the attack on the Peshawar airport over the weekend and also the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai earlier this year.

This suggests that the TTP are becoming more active and diversifying their targets. The closure of their traditional funding channels has not meant the organisation is running on empty, say analysts. What has instead happened is that the organisation seems to be branching out —  pushing its allied outfits to enter the political mainstream on the one hand and looking for new sources of funding on the other.

At a superficial level, the change in tactics as well as the military reverses the TTP has suffered may suggest the outfit is weakening. “Their leadership is being consistently and accurately eliminated by drone attacks,” says Khadim Hussain, who heads a local think tank in Islamabad. Hussain says that the deaths of its key members have meant the TTP is gradually becoming directionless.

With this, the cutting of regular supplies of funds has also been cited as a factor weakening the TTP. The government has also set up local committees to counter the might of the militants in the tribal areas and this has had mixed results.

But the evidence is more suggestive of a TTP that is moving into new areas of operations rather than one that is weakening.  Analysts say that not only has the TTP proliferated but also come into the cities. “The TTP is very much present in Karachi where it is now taking protection money from areas which it controls,” alleges Shahi Syed, the Karachi president of the Awami National Party (ANP). The ANP and the TTP seem now to be at loggerheads in Pakistan’s largest city — the ANP says that over 70 of its activists have been assassinated this year as a result of turf wars with the TTP…

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