Could a pullout of Afghanistan actually lead to Taliban-funded terror attacks at home?
The worst-case scenario of this encroaching dreaded visage is that through a combination of more access to international funding and spigots that spew cash closer to places like the United States, along with individuals and equipment getting into this country, terror groups will start engaging in attacks small and large.
At the outset, potentially starting with what they are currently doing now – drone attacks, car bombs and IED attacks, but this time, it would be on American soil.
But the question is how. The stark reality: many of the ingredients needed are already there.
External Operations (Ex-Ops): The Taliban is now unequivocally the most well-funded terrorist group in history.
Some experts argue that their immediate focus will be on instilling essential services and command-and-control within Afghanistan, while other experts argue the Taliban has the bandwidth to do this concurrently to supporting Ex-Ops attacks against the West through proxies such as al-Qaeda.
The Taliban have autonomy, once again, to utilize the financial industry at will.
They also have more weapons, taken from US forces coffers, as well as the infrastructure to support external operations, i.e., cross-border attacks in Pakistan, attacks on the US and her NATO allies at home and abroad, particularly given the US’s presently porous border.
First you get the money: History appears to be repeating itself.
The Taliban, coupled with their partner Al-Qaeda, will continue to pay individuals around the world to perform attacks against those aligned against them.
This has been a tactic that Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has used with success.
AQI members have made it known that they pay the families of the martyrs after an attack, to lure or coerce residents of a particular area, to do their bidding.
They will continue to invest in infrastructure, such as dam construction, as well as electric and power to particularly the southern half of the country, as well as humanitarian efforts, however minimal that may be.
Then you get the border: In July, 200,000 people crossed the Southern US border. It is not known how many of these people were bringing drugs or children as trafficked victims into the country.
A 183-foot-long tunnel was also discovered last month along the California/Mexico border. US officials have publicly stated that drug traffickers use tunnels like this one to “conduct illicit activities virtually undetected” across the border.
With Afghanistan supplying the bulk of the world’s heroin already, many believe drug trafficking will soar to new heights given the unregulated sale of poppy (opium) to countries outside of Afghanistan.
Drug trafficking will not be the only commodity to increase on a global scale.
Weapons trafficking, in both conventional and small arms, will rise to a level unforeseen before now.
Crypto: While crypto currency is not thought to be utilized regularly in terror finance transactions in Afghanistan currently, recent operations have revealed the heavy use of crypto currency by other Sunni jihadist groups.
In August 2020, the Department of Justice announced a global disruption of three terror finance cyber-enabled campaigns involving the Al-Qassam Brigade (Hamas’s military wing), Al-Qaeda, and ISIS.
The coordinated operation detailed three forfeiture complaints and a criminal complaint.
This announcement alone shows the resiliency and determination of terror groups to continue raising and moving money in both traditional and emerging ways.
Given the likelihood of future U.S. Treasury restrictions on Taliban finance, the proliferation of cryptocurrency usage from other Sunni terror groups to the Taliban is likely.
One could say we will see a wave of fresh terror attacks, akin to a “Terror 3.0,” the new and improved Taliban and radical extremist terror campaign.
With such a terrible future potentially on the horizon, financial crime investigators in both the public and private sectors have an immensely daunting and important task on their shoulders.
To critically examine the alerts and intelligence that populate your cases and work more closely and proactively with law enforcement and intelligence agencies – maybe more than you ever have before.
With contributions by Section 2 Financial Intelligence Solutions (s2fis.com).