Where do Taliban money and weapons come from?

Overthrown in 2001 by US troops, the extremist group returns to power after gaining new territories in Afghanistan in recent months.

After two decades of conflict, the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, this Sunday (15). The extremist group declared the country an “Islamic emirate” based mainly on Islamic law. Thousands of people tried to leave the country after President Ashraf Ghani fled.

Overthrown in 2001 by American troops, the Taliban returns to power after gaining new territories in recent months, after the end of the American stay in the country. Now, Afghanistan came under the control of the Islamic group in its main cities and in most of the national territory. But where do the group’s money and weapons come from?

What is the Taliban?

In the Pashtun language, Taliban means student. In 1994, former Pashtun guerrillas — the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan — who participated in the expulsion of Soviet forces with the support of the US and Pakistan, formed a group. Founded by Mohammad Omar, the extremist group promised to restore peace and security in the country, based on the establishment of Islamic Law.

When they took power in the 1990s, they turned Afghanistan into a kind of Islamic emirate, where the rules would be based on the Taliban’s reading of the Koran, the holy book of Muslims. According to this reading, women would be prevented from leaving the house without the company of a man, the use of the burka would be mandatory, in addition to being prohibited from studying and working.

The group played a direct role in the attack on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. The Taliban protected al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as well as other members. As a result, US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001, putting an end to extremist rule in the country.

After the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the group took refuge in a region bordering Pakistan, one of the few countries that recognized the Taliban government as legitimate. The US military stay in Afghanistan has also made anti-colonial sentiment stronger. Over the years, the Taliban has gained space through the recruitment of guerrillas. Now, the extremist group wants to recover what it lost after the US intervention in the region.

How is the Taliban financed?

Afghanistan is the world’s biggest opium exporter and is the source of most of the Islamic group’s money.

Cesar Gudes, head of the Kabul office of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told Reuters: “The Taliban relies on the Afghan opium trade as one of its main sources of income. More production brings medicines at a cheaper and more attractive price and, therefore, wider accessibility.”

The Taliban had already banned poppy cultivation in 2000, but it is believed to have softened its stance considerably after a backlash from rural farmers. From the poppy, when it is still green, a milky juice, opium, is obtained. When dried, this juice is called opium powder.

Experts believe the group, along with public authorities, has been involved in drug trafficking for a long time, but there is a dispute over how much money the group actually makes from it.

Between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent 8.6 billion dollars to curb drug trafficking in Afghanistan, according to the US government, apparently without success.

A confidential report compiled by NATO and later published by Radio Free Europe showed that the group also receives money from mining, real estate, and unidentified regional benefactors.

The report already warned: “Unless global action is taken, the Taliban will remain an extremely rich organization, with a self-sustaining flow of funding and external support from regional countries.”

In regions of the country that are controlled by the Taliban, there is also a model of taxation, known as an ‘ushr’. A UN report, released in September 2012, stated that this was a 10% tax on harvest and a 2.5% tax on wealth.

Where do weapons come from?

As the Taliban strengthened its presence in the country, the extremist group stole weapons that were given to the US army and police forces.

The groups also have weapons and equipment donated by groups or states that somehow sympathize with their cause, according to information from The Independent.

The US had already accused Russia of supporting and supplying arms to the Taliban in 2018. In an interview with the BBC, General John Nicholson claimed that arms were being smuggled across the border into neighboring Tajikistan. Russia and the Taliban have denied the US accusations.

When American soldiers began withdrawing from Afghanistan this year, the Afghan army nearly stopped fighting, and as the Taliban’s offensive intensified, thousands of soldiers surrendered their weapons without much resistance.

Source: with Agencies

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