Former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour is believed to have stolen vast sums of money from the terrorist group’s coffers in an apparent attempt to protect himself while his men were being killed in Afghanistan, according to U.S. Gen. John Nicholson.
The revelations regarding Mansour’s corruption exemplify a larger problem within Taliban ranks as leaders continue to skim money from the organization to live in “sanctuary,” Nicholson told reporters during a briefing over Skype. In Mansour’s case, stealing money did little to save him, as he was killed in a U.S. drone strike May 21.
“We also see evidence that Mansour had misdirected a lot of the Taliban revenues for his own purposes,” said Nicholson. “And in fact, since his death, because of his tight control over Taliban finances … the Taliban are having trouble getting control of their own finances.”
Nicholson claimed Mansour’s death has significantly disrupted Taliban operations, despite the group’s claims it has successfully transitioned to a new leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. The quick replacement of Mansour, which occurred within a week of his death, was reportedly not inclusive and has “exacerbated” existing tensions previously seen within the group’s leadership.
Additionally, Nicholson noted the new counter terrorism authorities given to him by President Barack Obama in June have helped U.S. forces roll back the Taliban presence across Afghanistan. He said that the authorities, which include allowing U.S. commanders to call in close air support for counter-Taliban operations, have been used “daily.”
Prior to the additional authorities given to U.S. commanders, experts and analysts were estimating that Taliban forces controlled or had presence in as many as half of the country’s districts. The terrorist group has been engaged in a summer offensive, referred to as Operation Omari, since April 12. A recent report from the Institute for the Study of War shows that the group is still an existential threat to many key areas within Afghanistan, despite recent U.S. successes. With several months still left in Afghanistan’s fighting season, it is likely the group will continue to remain a threat for some time to come.
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