Washington — The Taliban are in much stronger financial shape than al-Qaida and rely on a wide range of criminal activities to pay for attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, a senior Treasury Department official said 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.
Cohen’s assessment came as President Barack Obama and his top advisers discuss whether many more troops may be needed in the 8-year-old Afghanistan conflict. A critical part of the deliberations is whether the fight should be a more narrow one against al-Qaida or a broader battle against the Taliban-led insurgency.