Where Does the Taliban Get Its Funding From?

Published August 19th, 2021 - 06:00 GMT
Taliban fighters
Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021. (WAKIL KOHSAR/ AFP)

Several days after the Taliban recaptured most of Afghanistan in an unexpected development,  we started wondering where the militant group receives the financial support needed to fund its military offensives and fulfill its security needs, especially that it has been recruiting thousands of fighters and was able to take over such a huge country in record speed.

According to NATO estimates, the Taliban has more than 80,000 fighters across Afghanistan, which means that in order for the group to maintain its control over the country, it must enjoy an abundance of financial resources. 

Earlier this week, VOA news cited intelligence reports suggesting that the Taliban generates between $300 million and $1.6 billion a year. According to recent UN reports, most of the Taliban's money stems from the group's "criminal activities", which include ransoms obtained in exchange for kidnapped individuals, extortion, in addition to drug-related activities. 

For many decades, the troubling security situation in Afghanistan has boosted opium production in different regions across the country. 

A recent report by Aljazeera cited Cesar Gudes, the head of the Kabul office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who told Reuters that the Taliban rely heavily on the "Afghan opium trade as one of their main sources of income". It also highlights UNODC estimation that Afghanistan's opium trade "makes up about 80% of the global opium and heroin supplies" amounting to about $6.6bn per year.

Moreover, the group's gradual rise over the past few months has enabled its fighters to take control over territories that are rich in natural resources, not to mention millions of dollars provided through donations from sympathizers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. 

Earlier this month, as the Taliban was getting closer to Kabul, local experts estimated its gains of mining minerals in areas under its control by $1000 billion. Additionally, DW has highlighted a 2017 report by the former Afghan government evaluating Kabul's wealth of minerals and natural resources as high as $3 trillion.

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