Many Afghans are wondering, “Who is funding the Taliban now?” This question has many possible answers. There are several sources of revenue for the Taliban, including drug revenues and mining operations. Some sources cite the support of the Pakistani intelligence services, which helped the Taliban return to power. These sources could not have accomplished this on their own. The Taliban also inherited U.S. military equipment and the Bagram air base, which are sources of revenue, and they receive covert financial support from foreign governments.
The current threat of sanctions on the Taliban’s activities has prompted international experts to investigate the source of its funding. Most of this funding comes from illicit dealings and various informal financial networks. In the Fast Thinking book, executive vice president of Kharon Mark Nakhla delves into these financing networks outside the international financial system. Those methods are crucial to countering the Taliban’s power and actions. Further, maintaining these financial levers can help the international community shape the Taliban’s ability to govern, support other terrorist groups, and interact with the international economy.
There is no definitive source of funding for the Taliban, but some estimates suggest the group earns anywhere from $300 million to $1.6 billion each year. The primary sources of Taliban funding continue to be criminal activities, including opium poppy production and drug trafficking. Tax collection in areas controlled by the Taliban also contributes to the group’s coffers. Several of these sources are listed on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of terrorist financing groups.
How do the Taliban make money?
Taliban are thought to be one of the wealthiest insurgent groups in the world, and after two decades of fighting U.S. and partner forces, the militants now control Afghanistan. So how do the Taliban support themselves?
How wealthy are the Taliban?
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until late 2001 when they were overthrown by U.S. forces. Despite the 20-year conflict that followed and the deaths of tens of thousands of Taliban fighters, the group’s territorial control and military strength have increased in recent years. By mid-2021, they had an estimated 70,000-100,000 fighters, up from around 30,000 a decade ago, according to the U.S.Image source, Getty Images Maintaining this level of insurgency has required a great deal of funding from sources both inside and outside of Afghanistan.
Who are the Taliban?
The group’s annual income from 2011 onwards has been estimated at around $400m (Â£290m) by the United Nations (U.N.).But by the end of 2018, this may have increased significantly, to as much as $1.5bn a year, according to BBC investigations.
Where does the Taliban get their money?
BBC interviews carried out inside Afghanistan and abroad indicated the group is running a sophisticated financial network and taxation system. They have developed a number of income sources. We’ve looked into some of the main ones.1. Foreign donations several Afghan and U.S. officials have long accused certain countries – including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia – of giving financial aid to the Taliban. This is a practice they frequently deny. However, private citizens from Pakistan and several Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, are considered to be the largest individual contributors. Although impossible to measure exactly, these sources of funding are thought to provide a significant proportion of the Taliban’s revenue. According to experts, it could be as much as $500m a year. These links are long-standing. A classified U.S. intelligence report estimated that in 2008 the Taliban received $106m from foreign sources, in particular from the Gulf states. 2. Drug trade The Taliban have long been thought to run a taxation system to cover their insurgent operations, including the illegal drug trade. Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, which can be refined to make heroin. With an estimated annual export value of $1.5-$3bn, opium is big business, supplying the overwhelming majority of heroin worldwide. Image caption, and Opium harvesting provided almost 120,000 jobs in Afghanistan in 2019. According to the UNA, a 10% cultivation tax is collected from opium farmers, according to Afghan government officials. Taxes are also reportedly collected from the laboratories converting opium into heroin, as well as the traders who smuggle the illicit drugs.
What’s the Taliban’s record on opium production?
Estimates of the Taliban’s annual earnings from the illicit drug economy range from $100m-$400m.The drug trade accounts for up to 60% of the Taliban’s annual revenue, said U.S. commander General John Nicholson in the 2018 Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (Sugar) report. But some experts say this figure is an overestimation. The Taliban often deny their involvement in the drug industry and take pride in having banned opium poppy cultivation for a period while in power in 2000.3. Expanding areas of control, the Taliban’s financial network extends well beyond taxing just the opium business. In an open letter in 2018, the Taliban warned Afghan traders to pay their taxes on various goods – including fuel and construction material – when traveling through areas they controlled. After ousting the Afghan government, the Taliban now controls all the major trade routes in the country, as well as border crossings – creating more potential sources of revenue from imports and exports. Image source, Getty Images Over the past two decades, a significant amount of Western money has also unintentionally ended up in Taliban pockets. Firstly, the Taliban have taxed development and infrastructure projects – including roads, schools, and clinics – mostly funded by the West. Secondly, the Taliban are thought to have made tens of millions of dollars annually from taxing truckers supplying international forces stationed in various parts of the country. They are also thought to have made a significant amount of money from services provided by the Afghan government. The head of Afghanistan’s Electricity Company told the BBC in 2018 that the Taliban were earning more than $2m a year by billing electricity consumers in different parts of the country. And there is also income generated directly from conflict. Each time the Taliban captures a military post or an urban center, they empty treasuries and seize scores of weapons, as well as cars and armored vehicles.4. Mines and minerals Afghanistan are rich in minerals and precious stones, much of it under-exploited as a result of the years of conflict. The mining industry in Afghanistan is worth an estimated $1bn annually, according to Afghan government officials. Most of the extraction is small-scale, and much of it is done illegally. Lapis stones – often used in jewelry – is mined in Afghanistan Taliban have taken control of mining sites and extorted money from ongoing legal and illegal mining operations. In its 2014 annual report, the U.N. Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said the Taliban received more than $10m a year from 25 to 30 illegal mining operations in southern Helmand province.
Why did Russia invade Afghanistan?
Now, Putin’s sole justification for imposing a war on Ukraine is Nato’s alleged aggressive intent in its expansion in Russia’s neighborhood that is dotted with independent sovereign nations. In an intricately integrated world, Putin faces multiple challenges in selling his theory both at home and outside. Read: Ukraine wants direct talks between Zelenskyy and Putin, says foreign minister there are reports of unease in Russia over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine with a claim to de-Nazify Ukraine. With one claim standing busted, there are doubts over Putin’s ‘Nato is the enemy’ pitch as the US-backed group has refused to participate in the Russia-Ukraine war despite provocations. U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly rejected the suggestion that Nato would go to war with Russia if a member-nation is not directly attacked. Ukraine is not a Nato member. While some of the protests seen in some Russian cities are said to be ‘staged’ by Putin’s inner circle to drum up his democratic credentials, observers say there are a sizable number of citizens in Russian cities with anti-war sentiments. This is not good news for Putin. A similar wave of sentiments was noticed after the 1979-invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Follow full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war here. Soviet Russia invaded Afghanistan to protect the communist regime of the country driven by the sentiment of ‘workers of the world, unite’ — and to bring order to the country. A parallel could be drawn with Putin’s Ukraine invasion. Here, he is driven by the proclaimed commonality of the Rus nation and to restore order in Ukraine. In Afghanistan, the Soviet invasion evoked strong anti-Russian sentiments among locals, leading to the rise of fundamentalism. The U.S. allied with Saudi Arabia to fuel fundamentalism linking the loyalty of the Muslims to Islam. The U.S. and Saudi Arabian regimes won Pakistan over its side. Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), created and sponsored a network of terror outfits that included al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Ultimately, Soviet Russia was forced to retreat in 1989-90. Soon, the Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 countries. Ukraine is one of them. Putin has been trying to bring Ukraine under the influence of Russia for years now. While Ukraine has been trying to join the Nato camp, Russia has threatened consequences for Europe if this happens. Putin, at the same time, disputes Ukraine’s sovereignty. He describes Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus as one nation. Belarus is under strong Russian influence and has provided ground to launch Putin’s military attack on Ukraine, providing the shortest route to the capital Kyiv. Follow Live Updates here. Earlier, in 2014, Putin had annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. He achieved a smooth success and a tactical gain, but Putin harmed Russia’s reputation. Attack on Ukraine in the name of Rus nationalism has evoked strong anti-Russia sentiments. Putin can’t expect support from police, bureaucracy, or average Ukrainians even if his military succeeds in capturing Ukraine by force. This is not a Russia-specific phenomenon. Post-World War II attempts to capture and keep a country by force have resulted in embarrassing failures. The template was set during America’s Vietnam War. Then, Soviet Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan met the same end. It was followed by the U.S.’s attempt to control through a puppet regime ensured by democratic elections. Afghanistan now has the Taliban, which rose again and easily swept the land with almost no resistance from the people. Only possible but limited success was seen in Iraq after the U.S.’s invasion in the early 1990s. But the success was attributed mainly to the persecuted minority Shia population and a bureaucracy that felt relative ease in enforcing rule-based law after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was deposed. As the Russia-Ukraine war lingers, Putin’s position is likely to weaken due to rising economic costs, the hostility of the Ukrainian population, and growing unease among the Russian citizens, who ultimately pay for their president’s Ukraine obsession. Read: Kyiv accuses Moscow of resorting to ‘medieval siege tactics’ Ukraine is widely acknowledged as a more emotional and personal campaign for Putin rather than a prudent one on the geo-strategy parameters. What Soviet Russia failed to achieve in its south in Afghanistan, Putin’s Russia stares a similar fate in its West in Ukraine. Putin has spoken about his painful memories of Soviet Russia’s failures in Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the great Russian communist empire. It was a lesson that Putin might have done well to learn.