How did the Taliban sustain itself for 20 years? Nishant Mishra did some reading up and presented this report.
The Taliban group has a $2.3 billion fund for its fight in Afghanistan, with millions coming in from the opium and heroin trade, drugs, donations, extortion, illegal mining, and real estate. Annually, the Taliban has earnings of over $1.5 billion.
Since President Joe Biden’s April decision to withdraw U.S. Troops from Afghanistan before September 11, the Taliban have made stunning battlefield advances with now entirety of the nation of 38 million people under their control.
The rapid disintegration of Afghanistan security forces and the country’s government have shocked the world and led many to question how a collapse could happen so quickly after two decades of American nation-building and training efforts.
The question is how could the Taliban survive against U.S. Troops and Afghanistan Army for 20 years and eventually overpower them to take the whole nation captive.
Poppies served their Purpose
The Taliban most probably funded their requirements and survived 20 years through the Poppy cultivation and other drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. According to a 2020 Report by UNSC (United Nations Security Council ) estimated that “overall Taliban annual combined revenues range from $300 million to upwards of $1.5 billion per annum”.
This is not the only report, whereas several other certified reports from the past two decades claims that Taliban’s primary source of funds has been the drug trade. The Taliban did all this under the nose of the U.S. troops and was able to empower themselves with ammunition and arms for over 20 years, which now has resulted into a hijacking of the Afghanistan territory, including the national capital – Kabul.
Methamphetamine – more profitable
Production of Methamphetamine in suspicious areas of Afghanistan was first recorded by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2014.
Methamphetamine is even more profitable than heroin because its ingredients are low-cost and it does not require large laboratories for its production. The Taliban were in control of around 60 percent of such production laboratories of Methamphetamine. And the smuggling of the drugs was not only in Afghanistan but crossed borders to reach parts of Pakistan and other nearby nations as well.
Largest producer of Opium
Afghanistan is the country which accounts for approximately 84 per cent of global opium production in past 5 years.
This was supplied in markets of neighbouring countries like Europe, the Near and Middle East, South Asia and Africa and to a small degree North America (notably Canada) and Oceania.
Illegal mining and exports
While the drugs business continued the son of founder of Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob, expanded their financial power in recent years through increased profits from illegal mining and exports.
One of the reports by UN estimated that the militant movement earned “a staggering US $1.6 billion” in the year ending March 2020. Of this, $ 416 million came from the drug trade; over $ 450 million from the illegal mining of iron ore, marble, copper, gold, zinc, and rare earth metals; and $ 160 million from extortion and taxes in the areas and on the highways it controlled. It also got $ 240 million in donations, largely from Persian Gulf nations. To launder the money it earned, it imported and exported consumer goods worth $ 240 million. The Taliban also own properties worth $ 80 million in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Weapons from Pak and loot
The Taliban do not appear to have had any dearth of weapons to fight the Afghan and US forces. It is claimed by several journalists like Gretchen Peters, Steve Coll, that the ISI and Pakistan army supported the Taliban, directly and through the Haqqani network, a sprawling Islamist mafia based in Pakistan’s tribal areas and in Afghanistan, comprising fighters, extremist religious schools, and shady businesses with powerful connections to Arab countries in the Gulf and in Pakistan.
Taliban have US military assets
As the upsurge happened, the Afghanistan army didn’t even put up a fight to save the nation, and the Prime Minister cowardly ran for his own life and fled to some other nation. The Afghanistan army was trained by US, and they were also made equipped with developed arms and weapons which has now fallen in to the hands of Taliban, however no figures are currently available.
The US Government Accountability Office said in a report in 2017 that between 2003 and 2016 the US funded 75,898 vehicles, 5,99,690 weapons, 208 aircraft, and 16,191 pieces of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment for the Afghan forces.
Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans, conflict analysts specialising in modern-day weaponry and military tactics who have worked for websites such as Janes, Bellingcat and NK News, have used open-source intelligence to track the equipment that is proven to have fallen into Taliban’s hands.
According to them, the Taliban now possess two war jets, 24 helicopters, and seven Boeing Insitu ScanEagle Unmanned Vehicles that were with the Afghan forces earlier. Additionally, according to them, between June and August 14 the Taliban captured 12 tanks, 51 armoured fighting vehicles, 61 artillery and mortar, eight anti-aircraft guns, and 1,980 trucks, jeeps, and vehicles, including over 700 Humvees.
According to Dr. Jonathan Schroden who is the Director of CNA’s Countering Threats and Challenges Program (CTCP), has said ” It is concerning both as a waste of US taxpayer money and as a potential source of weapons for the myriad terrorist groups that have ties to the Taliban, and there is a non-zero possibility of groups like al-Qaeda or the Pakistani Taliban getting their hands on some of the weapons.”