NATO bombs -- but is Taliban getting U.S. aid?

Following the Taliban's money trail all the way back home

Published September 4, 2009 2:05PM (EDT)

Preliminary reports are saying that a NATO airstrike on an oil tanker earlier hijacked by guerrillas set off an enormous explosion as people had gathered around it. Some 80 are feared dead.

There has been a central and continuing debate about how the Taliban and other anti-government guerrilla groups in Afghanistan have been funded. Initially it was thought that they were involved in the drug trade, but it turns out that they probably don't manage to capture very much money from it (they are after all competing with corrupt government officials and criminal cartels). Then it was suggested that money is coming in from millionaire Muslim fundamentalists in the Gulf, from the United Arab Emirates, etc.

Now it turns out that we have met the enemy and he may well be us. Taliban are getting a cut of US government aid contracts in Afghanistan. Jean McKenzie of Global Post broke the story that the Taliban are getting a cut of US government aid contracts in Afghanistan. That story in turn prompted a congressional investigation that is generating more media on the question. The establishment of a substantial American press corps in Kabul and Islamabad is beginning to yield dividends for the US public in the form of investigative reporting that was infrequent earlier in the 2000s, in part because it is dangerous and in part because AfPak were not big emphases for the Bush administration.

CBS reports on the congressional hearings to find out if Congress is authorizing money that goes to Taliban.


In turn, the State Department is now probing whether US Agency for International Development monies are making their way into guerrillas' hands.


By Juan Cole

Juan Cole is collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan. He runs a news and commentary webzine on U.S. foreign policy and progressive politics, Informed Comment. His new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires (Nation Books), has just been published.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Afghanistan Taliban Terrorism