Taliban changing from religious group to criminal enterprise: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:57pm EDT

Taliban fighters pose with weapons at an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan in this May 5, 2011 picture.  REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Taliban fighters pose with weapons at an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan in this May 5, 2011 picture.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Taliban's reliance on extortion and kidnappings, along with narcotics and illegal mining operations, is transforming it from a group driven by religious ideology into a criminal enterprise hungry for profit, U.N. sanctions monitors said in a new report.

The latest annual report by the U.N. Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team on the Taliban was distributed to reporters on Friday, a day before Afghans vote in a run-off presidential election.

"In addition to voluntary or forced donations from Afghan businesses outside the country as well as voluntary donations motivated by religious or ideological convictions, the Taliban have established a fairly sophisticated system to generate resources inside the country," the report said.

"Increasingly Taliban finances also rely on abductions of wealthy businessmen for ransom."

The report said executing civilians and aid workers helps the Taliban reassert their power, block security improvements and prevent economic development 13 years after it was ousted from power by a U.S. invasion. It also creates new funding sources for the Taliban, hardline Islamists bent on toppling the Afghan government.

"However, these activities increasingly change the character of parts of the movement from a group based on religiously couched ideology to a coalition of increasingly criminalized networks, guided by the profit motive," the monitors said.

Taliban revenue generation is uneven. In provinces such as Nimroz and Kandahar, the Taliban are financially self-sustaining, while others depend on payments from the central leadership.

In Kandahar, the Taliban raise $7 million to $8 million a month from narcotics, extortion and mining, the report said.


The report includes details on Helmand, which it said is the Taliban's main province for generating funds. Helmand is the top opium-producing region in Afghanistan, with some 100,000 hectares of land cultivated with poppy in 2013.

In the worst case, it said, Afghan officials expect $50 million yield from this year's Helmand poppy harvest. Most of Helmand's poppy farmers can expect to pay 10 percent of their opium production as tax for the Taliban.

Another lucrative Taliban business is illegal marble mining, which the monitors said is the second major revenue source in Helmand.

"The illegal and unlicensed mining sector in the province appears to be several times larger than the legal mining sector," the report said. "The Team has currently identified from 25 to 30 illegal mining operations in southern Helmand."

Most of the illegal mines are near the Pakistani border, enabling the illegal miners to quickly smuggle the marble across the frontier and move it onto the international market.

"The Team's preliminary assessment is that this Taliban revenue stream is significantly larger than $10 million a year," the monitoring team said about marble mining.

The monitors recommended that the Security Council sanctions committee warn U.N. member states about the Taliban's use of illegally mined marble for financing.

In Helmand, the Taliban's "Financial Commission" transfers its funds to the Quetta Shura, a group including the top Taliban leadership, who arrange for the transfer of narcotics to Pakistan for sale.

The money is then transferred back to the Quetta Shura in cash or via "hawala" agents, an informal system based on trust used to transfer money without actually moving any physical currency. The monitors said the Taliban spend 20 percent of the money on fighting the government in Helmand, while the Quetta Shura get 80 percent to redistribute to needier Taliban elsewhere.

The Taliban has been under U.N. sanctions since 1999. The sanctions include an international asset freeze. Many individual members face U.N. travel bans and asset freezes.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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Comments (5)
Sonorama wrote:
Took them long enough. Haven’t we all known about the narcotics operation for a while? Still, props to the UN. Maybe you can make something big happen.

(Like sending in armed forces.)

Jun 13, 2014 12:25am EDT  --  Report as abuse
umkomazi wrote:
Taliban changing from religious group to criminal enterprise: U.N.

Rubbish! The taliban – have always been drug running, school girl killing cowards! They think it’s big & brave to shoot school girls and to throw acid at them – fine upstanding specimens of the islamic world!!

Jun 14, 2014 2:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
RBScott wrote:
The Taliban government successfully banned opium poppy cultivation in at least Helmand in 2000 hoping for help with the economy from the critical international community which did not come…only more criticism.Poppy returned to the area during the season of invasion in 2001 and the uncertainty of how strict the new government might be. The first “reconstruction” project in the area (working on desilting the central Helmand drainage system using mostly hand labor at $1.75 per man per day)reduced opium cultivation by 85% in the district of Nad-i-Ali (some 30,000 acres of irrigated land)during that one crop year before USAID finding got cut….and it has been mostly down hill from there. Helmand province presently produces some 30-40% of the WORLD’S opium although the US has apparently spent $2-3 billion on failed counter narcotics projects. See my website:www.scottshelmandvalleyarchives.org for more details on Helmand going back to 1953 into the opium present.

Jun 14, 2014 2:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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