Where does the Taliban get its money from?
The Taliban is megarich. Despite being out of power for 20 long years and losing tens of thousands of its members during a conflict with the West, it has grown rather rich and powerful in recent years. The insurgency group is believed to make over $1 billion each year through various sources. But, where does all that money come from?
Taliban earns $300 million to $1.6 billion in a year
Earlier this year, the United Nations (UN) reported the Taliban's annual income ranges between $300 million and $1.6 billion. Much of that amount comes from illegal and criminal activities such as drug trade and extortion besides foreign donations from unidentified sponsors.
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, which can be further used to make heroin. The country accounted for nearly 84% of the global opium cultivation over the five years ending 2020, according to the United Nations' World Drug Report 2020. The Taliban also imposes a 10% tax at every stage in the drug production chain, including poppy cultivation, laboratory work, and exports.
Taliban makes up to $400 million from drug trade
The Taliban's annual earnings from the illicit drug trade are estimated between $100 million and $400 million, according to the BBC. However, the group often denies involvement in the industry and has promised to stop the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan.
Several countries, including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia, have been accused of providing financial aid to the Taliban. However, these countries have denied the allegations. The insurgents are also believed to be receiving significant donations from private individuals from Pakistan and Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Experts say this amount could be as high as $500 million a year.
Extortion and taxes
In areas under their control, the Taliban has imposed a traditional Islamic form of taxation, comprising a 10% tax on farmers' produce and a 2.5% wealth tax. Industries under the taxation ambit include mining operations, media, telecommunications, and development projects funded by foreign aid, according to reports. A top Taliban official said these taxes account for around $160 million annually.
Taliban's income set to increase with new-found power
Now that the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, it's set to lay its hands on various new sources of income—including access to government accounts and wider control over the rich mining industry that remained under-exploited due to decades-long conflict. In 2010, American officials estimated Afghanistan had $1 trillion-worth unexplored mineral deposits, while Afghanistan's government estimated the figure to be $3 trillion in 2012.