Little noticed in the discussion of the Pakistan/Afghanistan Taliban issues are the points raised recently by Gen. David Petraeus about the continued use of charities and other external support for the radical Islamist group.
While there has been considerable attention paid to the revenue generated from opium trafficking in the Taliban's financial structure, little has been relatively little attention paid to the continuing role of charities in skimming off money that benefits the Taliban and others.
"You have funds generated locally, funds that come in from the outside, and funds that come from the illegal narcotics business," he said. "It's a hotly debated topic as to which is the most significant and it may be that they are all roughly around the same level."
Gen. Petraeus estimated that the Taliban raise a total of "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars" each year from the three sources, and said the U.S. doesn't have precise figures.
Charities, as we learned right after 9/11 are not only valuable for the money they can raise and distribute virtually undetected, but for the identification cards and travel facilities they offer radical operatives to move around with official cover.
(This was shown by both the Benevolence International trial and the recent Holy Land Foundation trial, where principals received stiff sentences because of their charitable support for Hamas.) My full blog is here.