Rebels in Kashmir are mesmerized by the Taliban, who have managed to bring another super-power to its knees. Many aspiring rebels of Kashmir get carried away by social media glory and tend to pick guns without understanding the consequences. Can the Kashmir Rebels match the might of the Afghan Taliban?
The Kashmir Rebels are estimated to be around 300 in number, with mostly untrained fighters. The funding for rebels is scarce even though cash-starved Pakistan is believed to be assisting the militants.
The situation of rebels in Kashmir is such that only deep forests and high mountains end up providing safe refuge to them, where survival becomes very difficult. EurAsian Times attempts to highlight why the Taliban are a very difficult enemy while the so-called Rebels of Kashmir are sitting ducks.
The Taliban are widely believed to have an estimated army of around 60,000 trained, battle-hardened fighters who control nearly 60% of the territory in Afghanistan.
Despite continued US military and financial support for the government in Kabul, the conflict has become increasingly complex. Sustaining this level of insurgency that too against a powerful enemy like the US requires a great deal of funding and munitions. So how do the Taliban finance and arm itself?
Who Finances the Taliban?
Tracking flows of finances is often a subject of calculated assertions. The annual income of the Taliban from 2011 onwards was estimated to be $400m, but it is believed to have drastically propelled to a whopping $1.5 Billion USD.
The Afghan and US governments have attempted to restrain these networks. The US army embarked on a new strategy of bombing drug labs which are a key revenue generation model for the Afghan Taliban.
However, the Taliban’s income derives from far more than just the drugs business. The UN in 2012 warned against the general perception that the poppy economy in Afghanistan is the main source of Taliban income.
With an estimated annual export value of $1.5-$3bn, the poppy is a massive business, providing the overwhelming bulk of prohibited heroin worldwide. Although there is some cultivation in government regions, most of the poppy growing takes place in areas controlled by the Taliban and is believed to be a key source of income.
The Taliban earns revenues from taxes imposed at several stages of the process. A 10% cultivation tax is collected from opium farmers. Taxes are also collected from the laboratories converting opium into heroin, as well as the traders who smuggle the illicit drugs. Estimates of the Taliban’s annual share of the illicit drug economy range from $100m-$400m.
The US military says 60% of Taliban funding comes from narcotics. By August 2018, the US claimed to have destroyed around 200 of the estimated 400 to 500 Taliban drug laboratories in the country, nearly half of them in southern Helmand province. It was also claimed that the air campaign wiped out around a quarter of the Taliban’s revenue from the opium trade.
The Taliban’s financial network extends well beyond taxing the opium business. A BBC investigation published at the start of 2018 found that the Taliban had an active presence in 70% of Afghanistan. In these areas, it has sought to maintain its taxation regime.
Earlier, the Taliban’s Financial Commission warned Afghan traders moving goods to pay their taxes when traveling through areas it controlled. It also draws revenue from businesses such as telecommunications and mobile phone operators. The Taliban also earns revenues of approximately $2m a year by billing electricity consumers.
Afghanistan is rich in minerals and precious stones, much of it under-exploited as a result of the years of conflict. The mining industry in Afghanistan is worth at least an estimated $1bn. Most of the extraction is small-scale, and much of it is done illegally. The Taliban has taken control of mining sites and extorted money from ongoing legal and illegal mining operations.
Several Afghan and US officials have long accused several regional governments, including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia, of giving financial aid to the Afghan Taliban. Private citizens from several Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, are believed to be aggressively funding the Taliban.
Who is Arming the Taliban
In an interview with the BBC, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, reiterated American concerns that Russia is supporting and possibly arming the Taliban. “We share some interests with Russia in Afghanistan, but clearly they’re acting to undermine our interests as well,” Nicholson had stated
He went on to say, “We’ve had stories written by the Taliban that have appeared in the media about financial support provided by the enemy. We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders who said this was given by the Russians to the Taliban. We know that the Russians are involved.”
According to the BBC, senior Afghan police officers and military figures say the weapons include night vision goggles, medium and heavy machine guns, and small arms.
After Mattis’ March 2017 suggestion that the Russians were up to something, CNN reported that “The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN.” American officials have consistently suggested that Russia is arming the Taliban, while the Russians have consistently denied the accusation.
Clearly, the state of weaponry, over 60,000 trained soldiers, sway over 60% of Afghan land, and around $1.5 Billion in yearly revenues make the Afghan Taliban a very powerful enemy. The untrained and unaided Rebels of Kashmir are no match against the world’s third-largest armed forces, and emulating the Afghan Taliban is clearly an incorrect path to walk on.
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