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Taliban in Afghanistan. What are their sources of income?

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The Taliban is considered one of the richest groups of this type in the world. The United Nations estimates their annual income at $ 400 million. According to an investigation by the BBC, Taliban revenues from 2018 may be three times higher than reported by the United Nations. What are their sources of income?


Information obtained by the BBC indicates that today the Taliban have an extensive financial network and have their own tax system. Since its inception in the 1990s, the group has developed several sources of income.

Foreign donations

According to the BBC, some US and Afghan officials have long accused some countries – including Pakistan, Iran and Russia – of providing financial aid to the Taliban.

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The most generous individual donors are individuals from Pakistan and several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. While it is impossible to accurately quantify the Taliban’s revenues, it is believed that these sources accounted for a significant portion of their budget. According to experts cited by the BBC, it could be as much as $ 500 million a year.

As the British station notes, these financial ties have been around for a long time. According to a US intelligence report, in 2008 the Taliban received $ 106 million from foreign sources, in particular from Gulf states.

Taliban in AfghanistanPAP / EPA / STRINGER

Drug trafficking

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium. According to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), more than 80 percent of the global supply of this substance comes from there. It is the main source of income for the local population. Today, the opium obtained from the poppy is mainly used to make the more powerful drugs – morphine and heroin. According to the BBC, the estimated value of Afghan opium exports is between $ 1.5 billion and $ 3 billion per year.

The production and trafficking of “Afghan heroin” has long been one of the Taliban’s primary livelihoods. As reported by the BBC, their drug trafficking revenues can be as high as $ 400 million. According to a report by the Bureau of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), opium production and processing could account for up to 60 percent of the income of Islamic militants.

The Taliban often deny their involvement in the drug industry. In 2000, when they were in power, they banned the cultivation of opium poppy. However, after the entry of the US military in 2001, militants returned to drug production.

The Taliban took power in AfghanistanPAP / EPA / STRINGER

Expanding the areas of control

The Taliban created their own tax system. As reported by the BBC, their financial network goes far beyond taxing the opium business. The station cites an open letter that the group wrote to Afghan merchants in 2018, asking them to pay a percentage of goods – including fuel and building materials. Now, following the overthrow of the Afghan government and taking power in the country, the Taliban control all major trade routes and border crossings, which, the BBC notes, creates more potential sources of income from imports and exports.

The station notes that during the last two decades of the mission in Afghanistan, a significant amount of Western money has also inadvertently been left in the pockets of the Taliban. This is because militants taxed development and infrastructure projects – including roads, schools and clinics – mostly financed by the West. Moreover, they made tens of millions of dollars each year in fees charged to truck drivers supplying international forces.

They also gained profits from the conflict itself. The BBC writes that whenever the Taliban captured a military post or occupied the city center, they emptied vaults, confiscated weapons, and seized cars and armored vehicles.

Mines and minerals

Afghanistan is a country rich in natural resources – including minerals and precious stones. According to Afghan officials, the country’s mining industry is worth around $ 1 billion a year.

Currently, raw materials are mined on a small scale and many mines operate illegally.

According to the BBC, the Taliban, taking control of areas rich in valuable deposits, extort money from mining operations, both legal and illegal. In a 2014 report, the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring team reported that the Taliban earned more than $ 10 million a year from 25-30 illegal mines in Helmand Province in the south of the country.

Main photo source: PAP / EPA / STRINGER

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