Taliban eyes drug money, taxes as it captures more territory in Afghanistan

As the Taliban continues to gain more territory in Afghanistan, the terrorist group is eyeing drug money and taxes to enhance its sources of income.

Kabul [Afghanistan], August 13 : With the US troops’ withdrawal barely weeks away, the Taliban have claimed the seizure of more than 10 out of 34 administrative centers of Afghan provinces. The Taliban began its offensive in May and swiftly began seizing key districts. Experts believe the military and economic might of the Taliban today is far greater than what it was in 2001. According to a Toronto-based think tank, the period after their ouster from power was used by the terrorist group for regaining its strength by exploiting all possible avenues for revenue collection.
The group earns money from taxes imposed at several stages of the economy, including 10 per cent cultivation tax from opium farmers.
“Taxes are also collected from the laboratories converting opium into heroin, as well as the traders who smuggle the illicit drugs. Estimates of the Taliban’s annual share of the illicit drug economy range from USD 100- USD 400 million,” said International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS).
According to the US military, 60 per cent of Taliban funding comes from narcotics. “By August 2018, the US claimed to have destroyed around 200 of Taliban’s drug laboratories in the country. However, the Taliban has shown great resilience in rebuilding the network of these labs.”
The think tank stated that collecting revenue from local economic activities has also been a major source of income.
“Even when the Afghan government was in control, Taliban used to collect taxes from traders transporting goods through areas it controlled. It also continued drawing revenue from businesses such as telecommunications and mobile phone operators in its areas. As per an estimate, Taliban was earning more than USD 2 million a year by billing electricity consumers in different parts of the country,” it added.
Last month, the Afghan deputy minister of counter-narcotics informed that the country has witnessed a 45 per cent surge in poppy cultivation and drug smuggling this year when compared to the same period last year.
Afghanistan, which infamously produces 80 per cent of the world’s opium, is currently cultivating poppy on more than 200,000 hectares of land in different regions of the country, TOLO news reported.
Besides drugs, revenue from mining activities is another lucrative avenue for the Taliban. “Afghanistan is rich in minerals and precious stones, much of it under-exploited as a result of the years of conflict. The mining industry of the country is worth at least USD 1billion. But, most of the extraction is small scale and illegal,” the think tank stated.
According to IFFRAS, the Taliban raised a dependable source of extortion from ongoing legal and illegal mining operations by taking control of the mining sites. Adding to all these, there is income generated directly from conflict, the report added.
“Each time the Taliban captures a military post or an urban centre; it empties treasuries and seizes the weapons, vehicles and other available assets,” the IFFRAS report said.

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