The Taliban are in much stronger financial shape than al-Qaeda and rely on a wide range of criminal activities to pay for attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, a senior Treasury Department official said on Monday.
David Cohen, the department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, said the extremist group extorts money from poppy farmers and heroin traffickers involved in Afghanistan’s booming drug trade.
The Taliban also demand protection payments from legitimate Afghan businesses, he said during a speech at a conference on money laundering enforcement.
US President Barack Obama and his top advisers are discussing whether many more troops may be needed in the eight-year-old Afghanistan conflict. A critical part of the deliberations is whether the fight should be a more narrow one against al-Qaeda or a broader battle against the Taliban-led insurgency.
According to Cohen, al-Qaeda is a cash-strapped organization that is losing its influence. That condition is the product, he said, of a long-running effort by the US and its allies to cut off the terror group’s sources of funding by targeting its deep-pocketed donors and interfering with its ability to move money.
In the first half this year, he said, al-Qaeda’s leaders made four public appeals for money to bolster recruitment and training.
“We assess that al-Qaeda is in its weakest financial condition in several years, and that, as a result, its influence is waning,” Cohen said at the conference, sponsored by the American Bankers Association and the American Bar Association.
But Cohen said that the situation could reverse quickly because multiple donors “who are ready, willing and able to contribute to al-Qaeda” still exist.
The Taliban, meanwhile, appear to be heading in the other direction despite an international effort to shut down the movement’s cash supply. Drugs are a major moneymaker for the group.
Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has said the Taliban get most of their cash from private benefactors in the Persian Gulf.
In related news, the head of Australia’s Defense Force has admitted the military made a mistake when it said two Afghan policemen shot by Australian soldiers were not in uniform at the time.
But Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said the Australian soldiers, who opened fire on the Afghans as they rode towards them on a motorcycle, did not know the men were police and were acting in self-defense.
Houston said the Australian military was wrong to state that neither man was wearing a uniform when they were shot at a checkpoint near the Tarin Kowt base in southern Afghanistan because one had been wearing a police shirt.
At the time, acting Chief of Joint Operations Command Air Vice Marshal Greg Evans said in a statement that the men “were not wearing uniforms and did not identify themselves as police members” ahead of the shooting.
Houston said late on Monday that the statement was wrong.
“I will admit that a mistake was made early on,” he told reporters.
The Australian military is investigating the August incident in which one of the Afghans was shot 16 times and died and the other was wounded, Houston said, adding that checkpoint procedures were being reviewed.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable