A new report from the United Nations shows that the Taliban in Afghanistan generated an income of approximately $400 million last year. The sources of revenue were donations, taxing local economies and extorting aid groups and drug dealers.
The documents were released by UN sanctions experts to the Security Council. The report noted that $275 million of the total income went to the group’s leadership and the remaining sum was allocated, spent and embezzled at the local level.
According to details of the report that was obtained by Reuters, the main source of income for the Taliban is a 10 percent tax on harvest and a 2.5 percent tax on wealth. Other services, such as electricity and water, are also taxed, but it is not noted how much the percentage is.
Donations are another major source of funding.
“Estimates of Taliban income from contracts funded by the United States and other overseas donors range from 10 percent to 20 percent of the total, usually by the Taliban agreeing protection money with the contractor or demanding a cut,” the report stated. “This example shows how the Taliban are able to raise money from an Afghan economy distorted by and unable to absorb the huge amounts of money that have flowed into the country since 2001.”
What may be surprising to some, its $100 million opium poppy industry, which is a small portion of the $4 billion annual drug crop, is only enough to finance the insurgency in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Oruzgan. For the Taliban, the revenues are not enough to conduct an insurgency elsewhere in the country.
The UN report cites estimates by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that the Taliban garnered $360 million during a three-year period from a $2.16 billion contract that was granted by the United States military to a local Afghan trucking company.
Furthermore, the experts claim that up to $155 million of the Taliban’s income was spent generating attacks last year, while the remaining sum maintained the fight against invading forces.
NATO forces have been in Afghanistan since 2001. There is no withdrawal date and while other countries have begun to pull back from the country, the U.S. will likely keep thousands of troops on the ground beyond 2014, when officials say majority of American forces will come home.