Afghanistan: The Taliban has multiple avenues to bankroll itself.

Credit: AP Photo/Zabi Karimi

The Taliban is said to be one of the wealthiest terrorist groups in the world, with an estimated annual revenue of around one and a half-billion dollars. It has only grown wealthier since it was dethroned by US-led NATO forces in 2011. The Taliban has grown both in terms of wealth and strength. It remains a mystery how the terrorist group sustained itself despite braving some of the most advanced militaries of the world for two decades and emerged as a resurgent force.

Afghanistan remained dependent on foreign aid and illicit trade while the formal economy contributed little to the country’s budget. Now, with the complete takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the western nations have ceased their fund over human rights violations and strict sharia laws. Afghan forces were funded by the US and NATO, which reported spending over 4 billion dollars, annually. With the drying up of aids, inflation has soared in Afghanistan that was already ravaged by poverty and malnutrition.

The Taliban relies on multitudes of sources to bankroll its activities in Afghanistan. The prime being the opium trade which forms the bulk of the revenue for the Taliban. Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the world. The Taliban extracts commission from each cultivator and smuggler. They also assure security to traffickers and help transport opium.

This illicit drug is processed to make heroin which is then shipped to the world markets while the Taliban draws hefty shares from such laboratories involved in manufacturing heroin. Opium cultivation generates the largest employment opportunities as it involves large labour. Opium cultivations are largely confined in the southern provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar and Zabul.

Efforts to ban the cultivation of opium have yielded no result rather than losses. Opium cultivations surged even amidst the COVID pandemic. Afghans take into consideration factors like weather and profits before cultivating opium. Solar-powered wells also facilitate cultivation.

According to a 2018 SIGAR report, the United States, in its endeavour to obliterate the contraband substance from Afghanistan spent over 8 billion dollars, over one and half decades. It carried out airstrikes and raids against suspected labs.

Despite the Taliban being designated, an outlawed organisation continues to receive foreign donations, purportedly, from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE. These gulf countries are the largest contributors. The US alleged Russia, Iran and Pakistan also of funding the Islamist group.

Afghanistan’ untapped minerals are worth billions of dollars. These minerals unexploited due to prolong conflicts, and the little bit of extraction that takes place illegally, are penalised by the Taliban with huge taxes. The Taliban, after taking control of mines extracted a large of income from mining operations. It is said to benefit hugely from illegal mining activities in the southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

The imposition of taxes on trade facilities, modern amenities and transportation have also filled the coffers of the Taliban since 1990. The Islamist group tax all development projects undertaken in Afghanistan, including schools and hospitals, at the behest of western countries. And, since every trade route has been under their control, more and more revenues are making way to the Taliban’s pocket, resulting out of imports and exports.

At one point of time when NATO troops swelled over 150,000 in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s revenue generated by taxing truckers exceeded the amount earned by the illicit drug trade. Transports have proven to be a profitable medium for the Taliban. Truckers carrying supplies to the foreign forces were heavily taxed by the Taliban.

The situation in Afghanistan has only grown grim after the establishment of the Islamic Emirate. The crisis, created by the departure of foreign troops, will compel abandoned Afghans to take narcotics trade to ward off destitution. Armed factions, warlords and the Taliban will compete to maximise profits from the drugs trade.

2 thoughts on “Afghanistan: The Taliban has multiple avenues to bankroll itself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *