Founded in 1994, Taliban is a Deobandi Islamist movement in Afghanistan. The organization is referred to as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and is currently headed by Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. Taliban was in full control of around 3/4th of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. It was later overthrown in 2001 after US forces invaded the country. Now that US-led forces are leaving the country, Taliban is steadily gaining ground in Afghanistan. It is currently waging a war (jihad) within the country with the goal of establishing strict Sharia law.
Fighting a war needs a lot of resources, which makes us wonder who is funding Taliban. From where is Taliban getting its guns, ammo, and other supplies needed for the insurgency? To answer such questions, let’s take a look at some of the key sources of income for Taliban.
Drugs – Data from 2016 to 2020 shows that 84% of all opium produced in the world was from Afghanistan. Taliban controls most of the opium cultivation and processing operations in the country. It charges a 10% tax from farmers, drugs manufacturers and traders that supply the final product to international locations. In 2020, Taliban is estimated to have earned more than USD 400 million from drugs.
Mining – Afghanistan has large ores of gold, zinc, copper, marble, iron and rare-earth minerals. Taliban extracts money from businesses involved in the extractions of such ores. Those who don’t pay often end up dead. As per NATO estimate, Taliban is earning more than USD 450 million from mining.
Extortion and taxes – Almost all economic activity under Taliban control is taxed. It includes people using highways and shopkeepers. Taliban follows an Islamic form of taxation. It has various rates, for example, a 10% tax on farmer’s harvest known as ‘ushr’. Similarly, wealth tax called ‘zakat’ is charged at 2.5%. Taliban is currently earning around USD 160 million from extortion and taxes.
Exports – Taliban has connections with various business entities involved in export and import of goods. This is also used as a cover for money laundering. It is estimated that Taliban earns around USD 240 million from exports.
Real estate – Taliban has various assets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. By renting these properties, Taliban is able to earn around USD 80 million per year.
Private donations and foreign funding – Taliban receives secret financial contributions from various unidentified individual and entities. This money most likely comes from Persian Gulf countries, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Charitable donations for Taliban are estimated to be around USD 250 million per year. According to CIA, governments in Russia, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia are also covertly funding Taliban. This also adds around USD 250 million, but exact numbers are tough to find.
Overall, Taliban is estimated to have an annual budget of around USD 1.6 billion. In comparison, the ruling Afghan government makes around USD 6 billion. Nobody really wants a return of Taliban, but it seems inevitable now. It is to note that Taliban have been involved in various extreme crimes including massacres of hundreds of innocent people. The world community needs to come together to take on Taliban, so that innocent lives can be saved.