Honey, secrecy and opium: this is how the Taliban group has managed to survive

Honey, secrecy and opium: this is how the Taliban group has managed to survive


What happens to an insurgent organization after it loses its head?

It depends on the organization.

In the case of the Taliban, there remained the mystery of how the insurgent group is working after the death of Mullah Omar, confirmed in July.

Several reports showed signs of internal divisions and there was uncertainty about how the leadership of this radical group that had been in power in Afghanistan in 2001 and still controls some areas of the country had been reorganized.

But this week it was announced that the entire organization will back the leadership of its new head, Mullah Akhtar Mansour .

After months of research and with the help of several analysts, the BBC managed to establish the way in which the Islamist organization is currently structured. He revealed how it is financed and, in some way, how it has managed to reorganize since the fall of one of its founders and historical leaders.

Image caption Bee honey became one of the funding sources of the Afghan Taliban.

And the details that came to light were partly unexpected .

For example, according to the report of specialists in the subject such as Barnett Rubin, international analyst and member of the International Cooperation Center, the sale of honey has been one of the ways to obtain resources for the fight of the Taliban.

“The Haqqani network has businesses in Afghanistan, Pakistan and in the Persian Gulf countries , including the sale of honey,” explained Rubin.

Is the Taliban unit over?

Something that has characterized this insurgent group is that during its years of activity under the leadership of Mulá Omar never showed signs of internal division.

And this week they confirmed that they are going that way by showing unified support for Mullah Mansour.

The Taliban military committee
Copyright of the AP image
Image caption The military committee is the strongest wing of the insurgent organization.

The Taliban are a highly ideological group and that is the reason they have remained united, their members fully obey the Amir’s dispositions,” Waheed Mozhda, an international analyst who works for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, told the BBC. .

“They are aware that they are weaker than their rivals and that if their enemies learn of their divisions they could easily be defeated,” he added.

Another important factor is that the unit is part of their ideological principles.

“The Taliban was founded to put an end to the factions and there is a great presumption of substance against this way of governing through division, although there are different opinions, they are never organized in factions, everybody obeys the mandates of the commander of the faith,” explained Rubin.


Copyright of the AP image
Image caption This week the Taliban group announced its support for its new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

The dissidents, which of course have existed, leave the organization or are expelled and then lose all influence on the members, says the expert.

He added: “Nobody advocates having different voices within the organization, they only compete for status, money or power, whether the factions arise now or not depends on the strength of Mulá Mansur’s leadership.”

How are they being financed?

One of the revelations emerged from the BBC’s investigation is that the Taliban has never established itself as an organization with great material pretensions.

They survive with little: they have never had an office in Pakistan, but they are all the time moving around the country, operating mostly from Islamic schools and mosques.

Mullah Omar
Image caption Mullah Omar was an unknown to international authorities, including his death.

An office of the Haqqani network – which belongs to the organization’s structure – was found in the remote region of Waziristan, Pakistan, but it is unknown if it is operational,” explained Haroon Rashid, editor of the BBC’s Urdu service. .

Most of the money with which the Taliban manage to finance their activities comes from sources such as the extortion tax on businesses and the protection of drugs.

But they do not live solely on these activities. Also the trade of honey, opium – one of the main products of Afghanistan – and drug trafficking.

“In addition to imposing taxes on farmers who grow poppies (similar to common poppy), they also have toll charges on the highways, the theft of supplies to merchants and security forces, along with the payment of foreign private companies that prefer pay the Taliban that the regular army,” said Mozhda.

Copyright of the EPA image
Image caption Mullah Omar (left), whose death was confirmed in 2015, was replaced by Mullah Akhtar Mansour.


But in the last year they acquired another branch: mining, which is controlled by the financial committee, which is second in importance after the military, ” he added.

How do the Taliban communicate?

Its secrecy, but above all its ability to develop internal networks of secure communications, was evident when they saw how they managed to keep information about the death of their leader, Mullah Omar.

But the disappearance of the founder has led to special care being taken to safeguard the most sensitive information of the organization from any interception.

The best option for them has been the ‘word of mouth’ communication , avoiding the technology, but they also have a complex system of sending letters, I saw some that were found in the city of Miranshah and it is clear that this is the way most popular to communicate,” explained Rashid.

Copyright of the GETTY image
Image caption 
The Taliban have tried to regain the strength they once had in Afghanistan before the US intervention in 2003.


But that has not left them anchored in the past, says Rubin.

“Now, they went from damaging televisions to having an advanced internet network and social media activity, which is sometimes more effective than the government of the United States or the Afghan government,” Rubin said.

Who are your allies?

Faced with the growth of the self-styled Islamic State and Boko Haram, former Islamist insurgent groups were in the background, despite the power that in the past had groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Precisely al Qaeda has been the main ally of the Taliban in recent years, helping to collect funds in favor of the organization.

Al Qaeda
Copyright of the AP image
Image caption Al Qaeda is considered one of the main allies, but many analysts consider the union a “symbolic” alliance.


However, “the Taliban do not receive any military support from al Qaeda and at the same time they do not support any jihadist activity on a global level,” Rubin wrote.

The truth is that with the expansion of the Islamic State has emerged a new enemy that claims to have an “Islamic” authority over the territory of Afghanistan.

“The leader of the Taliban is the Amir of the Afghans only, but they can not tolerate that there is another figure who assumes a certain superiority in his ‘Islamic’ authority over the Afghans,” he added.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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