Analysis of Taliban revenue and the importance of the opium trade to the insurgency
Lambertus, Joshua John.
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The current Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan has multiple funding sources. The importance of the opium production and smuggling has been touted as essential to the continuation of the Taliban insurgency in today's media. This thesis aims to understand the true value of the opium trade to the Taliban and to explore alternative revenues sources for the Taliban both inside and from outside of Afghanistan and whether the opium trade is essential to sustain the current level of activity by the insurgency. The problem that the coalition faces is not as one-dimensional as is portrayed in the media when it comes to financially crippling the Taliban insurgency. It is also important to break down the complex situation the population in Afghanistan faces and how this contributes to the growth of the opium production. Understanding the tribal, agricultural and governmental factors helps to determine the true nature of the opium trade. Media sources often equate the Taliban and the essential link to the opium trade, coercion of the populous and opium revenue as critical factors for the success of the Taliban. The Taliban have had a mixed history in their tolerance of opium production and poppy cultivation. During their control of 95 percent of Afghanistan from 1996 through 2001, they moved from tolerating poppy cultivation to imposing a complete ban. After the coalition invasion and the Taliban resurgence as an insurgency they have encouraged poppy cultivation in the areas they exert control over. However, the revenue from the opium is not the only revenue source, and the other revenue sources are quite significant and surprising. In addition the history of Afghanistan is rife with examples of the nature of funding for warfare, which need to be understood as a cultural norm. Ultimately this thesis aims to demonstrate that the focus of coalition efforts to interdict opium trafficking should not be their main focus, rather only the successful training and implementation of local competent security forces will affect the funding revenue from both narcotics and the myriad of other illicit sources.
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