Taliban Hides Drug Trade Revenue While Afghanistan Battles Financial Crisis, Says Report

Approximately one out of ten Afghans are engaged in the drugs business.

File image showing poppy flower fields used for Opium farming in Afghanistan. (Source: Xinhua)

Kabul: Taliban which was always suspected to be one of the wealthiest militant groups in the world, has never let out the details about the volume and revenue of the drug trade, as Afghanistan going through grave financial crisis.

Despite involvement in the drug trade was never a secret for the Taliban, its dimension was never completely understood. Though they were always suspected to be one of the wealthiest groups in the world, the Taliban never let out the details about the volume and revenue of drug trade which was powering after two-decade, the Portal Plus said in a new piece.

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According to Portal Plus, Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, which can be refined to make heroin. With an estimated annual export value of 1.5-3 billion dollars, it is a vast business, making the country a supplier of the majority of heroin worldwide. As per a UN estimate, opium harvesting provided almost 120,000 jobs in Afghanistan in 2019. These volumes act as a cash cow for the Taliban in the form of several kinds of taxes and levies. Ten per cent tax on the harvests of irrigated land used for opium poppy cultivation contributes the lion’s share when it comes to revenue from drugs, according to Portal Plus.

3.5 million Afghans have been internally displaced in the country. (Source: Twitter/ WFP Asia Pacific)

Reports suggested that the Taliban’s total annual income was around 1.5 billion dollars, to which drug trade is estimated to be contributing around 420 million dollars a year, while according to other sources the drug trade accounts for up to 60 per cent of the total revenue, reported Portal Plus.

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While the drug trade acted as a lifeline for the Taliban during the past twenty years, the ruins it brought to Afghanistan’s ordinary citizens cannot be overstated. According to 2017 study by European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) reflects upon the extent of illicit drug industry involvement in civilian life. It said that the interwovenness of drug trade within Afghanistan shows its deep anchoring in society and in the lives of civilians. Approximately one out of ten Afghans are engaged in the drugs business. The employment, however, often results in dependency and debt traps particularly for individuals in rural communities. The effects can be felt in the form of volatile incomes for families and lack of formal alternatives, as per Portal Plus.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a recent report that the price of opium has recently surged. According to UNODC findings, income from Afghan opiates amounted to USD 1.8 billion to 2.7 billion in 2021 inside Afghanistan, but much larger profits are made in the illicit drug supply chains outside the country. Increased political uncertainty in Afghanistan since August 2021 is driving up opium prices, which almost doubled in August compared to May, said UNODC, reported Tolo News.