ISLAMABAD: The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is facing a serious financial crisis since its slain founding leader Baitullah Mehsud combined several scattered groups from all over the tribal belt to form the most feared terror network of homegrown militants back in 2007.
“The Taliban have seriously run out of funds…they have hardly any money anymore,” at least three associates of the group said amid a surprising halt in their activities – suicide bombings and terror attacks across Pakistan and in parts of Afghanistan – in recent months.
Also mysteriously silent are long-cannoned guns from the artillery of Pakistani military that is involved in an operation against the TTP in their South Waziristan stronghold since 2009.
The TTP is apparently not able to fund its operations for the want of money, the group’s members told The Express Tribune.
“The group is in a fix even to keep its infrastructure comprising several thousand foot soldiers and a huge fleet of vehicles,” the members added.
“It seems the money has just stopped coming to them. All the avenues which they used to get funds through are not working for some time now,” one of the three said, describing how difficult the survival has been for the group.
In Islamabad, top officials in the military also confirmed the TTP was now in a multiple crisis — fund shortage, numerous defections and loss of strongholds across the mountainous border regions.
The officials claimed credit for the military for this, saying it was due to tight controls the Pakistan Army had put in place that the militants were not getting funds.
“The Taliban are running out of money because they are surrounded from all directions,” one of them said, referring to a blockade of the area by the military.
Though an army operation against the TTP led by Hakimullah Mehsud started in October 2009, the military had thrown a cordon around the stronghold of the fugitive group several months ahead of that.
And that arrangement was still intact, leaving no or very little chances for anybody from outside to reach them with arms or money.
An official in the intelligence agencies said another reason for the shortage of TTP funds was the blows the Arab al Qaeda had faced in the region because of a concerted campaign against them by the US forces stationed in Afghanistan.
“Al Qaeda is on the run now…most of the private Arab money to the TTP used to come through them. That has evaporated now,” the official added.
Drug money from Afghanistan is also not coming in a big way after tight controls by the US-led forces on the border following their operations against the Afghan Taliban in Helmand and Kandahar.
Last year a senior US general claimed the Taliban (Afghan) are facing a ‘financial crisis’.
Major General Richard Mills, who leads coalition troops in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a key poppy-growing region for the Taliban, said that with supply routes being blocked, the Taliban were facing a financial crisis
“We believe that the local insurgency here within the province has less than one half of what they had last year in operating funds,” The Telegraph quoted Major General Mills as saying citing ‘sensitive intelligence’ reports.
“Definitely, if the poppy cultivation in the south of Afghanistan is controlled, it will result in less money for the Pakistani Taliban,” one official commented.
Official here are also interpreting the execution of Col (retd) Amir Tarar commonly known Col Imam by the Taliban led by Hakimullah Mehsud as a step taken in utter desperation.
Imam was the former official of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) who trained most of Afghan Taliban, including their supreme leader Mullah Omar in the ’80s and ’90s.
“By killing him (Imam) a year after he was kidnapped, they might have given a message to the families of other people in their custody…and the bottom line is that they need money and need it desperately,” one official explained.
The Taliban, however, said they killed Imam because he staged the killing of hundreds of their Afghan counterparts some two years ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2011.