Terrorist groups, like other organizations, rely on funding to operate and exist. One of the means through which the United States and other countries have tried to combat groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban has been by seeking to cut them off from their financiers. Hence putting pressure on the assets of people and organizations who have been linked to these groups has been a priority in the complex process of fighting global terrorism. Attempts to freeze these people’s assets have been successful because other countries in Europe have often followed suit and agreed not to do any forms of business with them- essentially cutting them off from the international financial system. However, many terrorist groups have responded to these efforts by reverting to other forms of crime, like drugs and illicit trafficking, to generate the funds they need for their organization.
This strategy of fighting terrorism has been successful in certain instances. Al-Qaeda, for example, has likely been affected by these tactics and the organization has had to make pitches throughout the Middle East for donors to come forward. While it is clear that at least part of al-Qaeda’s financial difficulties can be attributed to the United States’ strategy, it is not evident just how much. Many connect the organization’s decline with the corresponding fall of radical jihad in the Muslim world. Because Al-Qaeda’s efforts have failed to bring about an improvement in the lives of Muslims, their ideological and financial support has thus suffered. These facts make it difficult to pinpoint just how successful the efforts to control terrorist organization’s financial networks have been.
In contrast to al-Qaeda’s financial and logistical decline several other groups, like the Taliban, have been able to evade the efforts of the international community to control their money supply. In fact, many in the intelligence community attribute the Taliban’s financial well-being to the fact that the donors and sponsors of al-Qaeda have shifted their funding and resources to the Taliban. Further, international efforts to constrain the flow of money and resources to the Taliban have proved challenging and often ineffective.
So the burning question becomes where do groups like the Taliban get their money? The short answer is from a lot of different places. In addition to foreign donors from the Middle East, the Taliban receive money from a variety of illicit goods production and distribution. Although the governments in the region do not directly finance the Taliban per se, their citizens do. According to the CIA, the Taliban received over $100 million in foreign donations last year. Also, Afghanistan is the world’s top producer of opium and the Taliban reap enormous profits from the international and domestic sales of this drug.
Terrorism is clearly an immense problem that will require a variety of innovative methods to effectively defeat. But, the facts of this article point to the notion that even if the international community is able to cut off groups like the Taliban from their foreign financiers, they will likely still maintain many avenues through which to generate funding.