The U.S. taxpayer-backed Afghan government is reportedly funding schools and hospitals operated by the Taliban as the terrorist group attempts to establish itself as a legitimate administration in the large swathes of the country under its control.
“They are trying to set up a mini-state – if not the actual state – in Helmand,” Auliya Atrafi, a journalist from the BBC Afghan service who made a film about the deteriorating security conditions there, told the Telegraph.
“In the evening when we sat with the [Taliban] elders and the local leaders, they asked us: ‘Where do you think we will be in 10 years time?’ We knew what they were thinking. They see themselves in ten years time as the government,” added the BBC journalist.
Citing the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) revealed that jihadists, primarily the Taliban, contest or control 40 percent of Afghanistan.
In particular, the Taliban controls or influences 64 percent (nine of 14 districts) of opium-rich Helmand province, located along the Pakistan border next to Kandahar, the birthplace of the terrorist group.
The Telegraph reports that the Taliban controls at least 80 percent of Helmand province, considered one of the deadliest provinces of the ongoing 16-year-old war for the American-led coalition and their Afghan allies.
Taliban jihadists generate 60 percent of its funding from the illicit opium business in Afghanistan, the world’s top producer of the poppy plant, according to the U.S. military.
The American government has invested more than $117 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
Most of those funds (more than $71 billion) have been devoted to training, housing, equipping, and sustaining the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in their fight against the Taliban and other jihadist groups.
Nevertheless, the Telegraph points out, “the Afghan government is funding schools and hospitals run by the Taliban as the militant group seeks to establish itself as a legitimate administration in large swathes of the country, a new film has found.”
“A report by a BBC team granted rare access to the group’s stronghold in Helmand province found the Taliban has been forced to present itself as somewhat modernized since Afghans have grown used to government services and a different way of life after the group was ousted from official power,” it adds.
An estimated 300 U.S. Marines have recently returned to the Taliban-stronghold Helmand.
The U.S.-led coalition overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001, soon after invading Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S homeland.
“The Taliban has grown in confidence three years since Western troops withdrew from the country,” declares the Telegraph.