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Jun 04, 2009

The Taliban in Afghanistan seem to be channeling the Sopranos in their war against the West.

By Matthew Schaeffer

The arrival of warmer weather has coincided with a new offensive push by the resurgent Taliban, just as President Barack Obama has decided to commit more American troops to the battle.

Who are these self-proclaimed holy warriors? According to Gretchen Peters, award-winning journalist and author of Seeds of Terror, the conventional characterization of the Taliban and their allies as “filthy, wearing rubber sandals, fanatics and living in caves, religious warriors fighting for ideology, accessorizing with Kalashnikovs and RPGs” is wrong.

“I think that we have underestimated our enemy out there because of this perception,” Peters says. “By and large, we have underestimated the enormous financial resources they have behind them.” 

She argues that in their day-to-day activities, these Islamic radicals actually operate in much the same way as one of the most notorious criminal organizations in the world—the mafia.

This includes gathering funds through a wealth of illicit activities. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been implicated in crimes ranging from kidnapping and extortion to gun running, human trafficking and the smuggling of antiquities. 

But their greatest and most consistent source of income comes from their involvement in Afghanistan’s heroin trade. The Taliban collect taxes from poppy farmers, provide protection to drug convoys and refineries, and actually ship drugs across the country. All of that might add up to $400 million of income each year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

That means the insurgents have huge, constantly renewed resources available to fight their war. And it means that the U.S. and NATO will have to rethink the strategies needed to defeat them. 

“These groups change as they become corrupted by money,” says Peters. “We definitely see this in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On one hand, it provides an opportunity, because they’re no longer holy warriors, they’re just crooks. But in many areas, the Taliban have actually become much more ruthless.”


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Whoever wrote this article should be ashamed. I don’t say this in a political slant, I say this as a writer and a fan of journalism. “The Sopranos,” the HBO show, and the values of its characters have nothing to do with this article. For an opening line, it should at least have something to do with the rest of the article. I guess “crime” is the only link between the HBO show and the people discussed within the article. If that’s the case, shame on you. You’re a terrible writer, as, beside the hopes, I was completely bored by the writing. I have never commented on this site. I probably never will ever again. I just wanted to let the writer and that writer’s bosses know that this person is wasting money. If the writer is a volunteer, then they are wasting their own life. At least packing peanuts have a genuine purpose.

Daryl Goins
Jun 16, 2009

Focusing so much on the money the Taliban gets from the poppy trade totally discounts the fact that so much of their money–most of it, probably–comes from Saudi Arabia, and that the U.S. has been mostly powerless to stop this funding.

Podger D
Jun 14, 2009