KABUL (SW) – An investigative report by Salam Watandar indicates the Taliban insurgents are accumulating an estimated AFN 22 billion on yearly basis through illicit customs, religious taxes and other local means.
Many observers believe the Taliban are getting much of their financial, strategic and logistical support from regional hostile intelligence agencies. As the Taliban continue to engage in talks with the U.S, the extent of their domestic revenue collection was quite vague so far.
However, SW has gathered key facts and documents to shed some light on the insurgents’ financial resources.
The Taliban’s annual income through such tactics and means amounts much more than the annual budget for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
- Illicit Customs in Ghazni, Farah, Faryab, Nimroz, Khost and Baghlan
The Taliban’s cut from commercial vehicles on the main Maimana – Mazar highway ranges between AFN 7000 and AFN 35,000. Sibghatullah Sailab, deputy chairman for the provincial council in Faryab, said the insurgents are collecting AFN 12,500,000 annually from one highway alone.
Spokesman for the provincial governor, Jawed Bedar, said the Taliban have been forced by growing pressures to seek domestic sources for revenue on the main highways upon losing much of their foreign sources of financial support.
The Taliban have also set-up their self-styled customs in Ghazni province where they collect highway toll from all commercial vehicles plying through this central province. Estimates suggest this illicit customs is earning the insurgents AFN 1,200,000,000 on yearly basis.
Naseer Ahmad Faqiri, chairman for the provincial council, said the Taliban collect toll here on parts of the Kabul – Kandahar highway, Ghazni – Paktika highway and Bamyan – Daikundi highway.
The Taliban fill their coffers with an estimated AFN 300 million on monthly basis via illicit customs on the Kandahar – Farah highway. Shah Mehmood Niamati, deputy chairman for the provincial council in Farah, stated the Taliban have imposed different categories of levies ranging between AFN 50 to AFN 500 on commercial vehicles plying on this highway, which amounts to an estimated 10 million on daily basis.
Another of the Taliban’s money-making illicit customs is in Dilaram district of Nimroz province bordering Iran that is earning the insurgents up to AFN 78 million on monthly basis. A number of transporters who wished not to be named in the report told SW the Taliban confiscate between AFN 2500 to 40,000 from each commercial truck here.
Obaidullah Norzay, Chairman Nimroz Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said the Taliban have been operating their self-styled customs across Afghanistan for a while now. He said each goods carrying commercial vehicle is forced to pay between AFN 20,000 to AFN 30,000 by the Taliban.
In Khost province, this rate ranges between 20,000 Pakistani rupees to 200,000 Pakistani rupees per goods carrying commercial vehicle. Local officials in Khost, who wished not to be named, said the Taliban’s monthly income from here amounts to AFN 30 million. The officials said the Taliban also charge 500,000 rupees for settling disputes in Qaladar, Mosakhail and Domanda districts besides the regular religious taxes (zakat, ushur).
In Baghlan, the Taliban extort between AFN 10,000 to AFN 20,000 from each oil tanker passing through this province. Chairman for the provincial council, Mohammad Safdar Mohsini, said the insurgents are earning an estimated AFN 24 million through this form of highway toll here.
Beyond expectations, the Taliban are quite organized in terms of setting different categories of tolls for a wide range of commercial vehicles and goods.
For instance, commercial vehicles with six, ten or sixteen tires carrying food items are charged with AFN 4000, AFN 8000 and AFN 12,000 respectively. Similarly, commercial vehicles with six, ten or sixteen tires carrying auto parts are charged with AFN 8500, AFN 17,000 and AFN 25,500 respectively. Similarly, commercial vehicles with six, ten or sixteen tires carrying medicine are charged with AFN 11,000 AFN 22,000 and AFN 33,000 respectively.
For marbles, this price ranges between AFN 8000, AFN 16,000 and AFN 24000. For garments, it ranges between AFN 3500, AFN 7000 and 14,000. For timber it ranges from AFN 5000, to AFN 10,000 and AFN 15,000 while as for coal the Taliban’s illicit customs levy ranges from AFN 8500 to AFN 17,000 and AFN 25,500.
On average daily basis, up to 30 commercial goods carrying vehicles ply on different highways in northern, southern, eastern and western parts of the country. And, for Kabul this daily average is around 200 to 300.
According to a number of reports from different provinces, the transporters pay these levies rather pleasantly in an orderly environment in clear contrast to the official customs.
- Provinces with no customs
Though, the Taliban have no operational customs in Ghor province, but transporters told SW the insurgents occasionally block main roads and collect AFN 2000 to AFN 3000 from each vehicle during checking. On daily basis, some 100 small and big vehicles ply on these roads, which means the Taliban collect AFN 8.4 million here on monthly basis.
Spokesman for the provincial governor, Abdul Hai Khatibi, said the Taliban are collecting taxes in areas under their control.
The Taliban are also collecting taxes worth AFN 45 million in Badghes provinces on monthly basis. A number of transporters said the Taliban have established check posts in the Band Sabzak area on the main Herat – Badghes highway to collect AFN 500 to AFN 12,000 from each vehicle.
Nasir Nazari, chairman for the provincial council, said that the Taliban’s presence on the main highway has also caused serious concerns for officials, security forces and employees of NGOs travelling on this route.
In Takhar, the Taliban’s main source of income is religious tax and taxes imposed on traders. Officials who wished not to be named told SW the local oil traders pay thousands of afghanis to the Taliban on monthly basis. The officials said the Taliban accumulate AFN 173 million here on monthly basis.
The Taliban also have no illicit customs in Sar-e-Pul province, but this does not stop them from collecting an estimated AFN 9 million from traders of raisins alone. Naqibullah Daqiq, governor of Sancharak district, said in this regard that the Taliban are collecting AFN 300,000 from local markets in Tabeer and Taghaey Khwaja areas alone on daily basis.
Same is the case of Jawzjan province where the insurgents accumulate an estimated AFN 6 million on monthly basis through religious taxes, land taxes, abductions and sell of drugs and narcotics. Based on reports, the Taliban are forcefully collecting up to 200,000 from local residents in Manjigak, Kham Ab and other restive districts of the province.
Matiullah Ehsan, governor of Manjigak district, said in this regard that the Taliban have given away state land to locals on loan here, which earn them up to AFN 200,000 on monthly basis.
Governor of Faizabad district here, Alif Shah Ataaey, said the Taliban are also extorting money from local traders.
Just like Paktia province, the Taliban have no self-styled customs in Kunduz, but they take away a share from the official Sher Khan Customs, which amounts to some AFN 4.5 million. A number of local traders said the Taliban have appointed their men at this port to ensure their cut is paid. They said the Taliban always have prior information about the import shipments. They said the Taliban take away AFN 3000 from each commercial vehicle here.
Bamyan, Maidan Wardak and Daikundi provinces area also considered as sources of income for the Taliban. They collect up to AFN 10,000 from each commercial goods carrying vehicle here, which amounts to AFN 3.4 million per month.
Mohammad Hassan Assadi, member of the provincial council, said the Taliban control 8 kilometer of road in Jalrez district and the Ghorband valley where they collect taxes freely.
In Paktia, the Taliban have a monthly revenue of AFN 2.25 million. Members of the provincial council told SW that the Taliban are collecting money from commercial vehicles carrying goods as well as market owners here.
Mohammad Rehman Qaderi, a member of the provincial council, said the Taliban often come out on main highways and inspect their self-styled customs receipts.
To back their insurgency, the Taliban collect religious taxes besides imposing levies on transporters in Samangan province. The insurgents collect some AFN 49,000 from trucks carrying coal.
In Helmand where the Taliban have significance presence, the insurgents collect some AFN 25 million on monthly basis from transporters alone. A local source told SW the government’s control is confined to Naad-e-Ali, Neher-e-Siraj and Nawa districts alone while rest of the province is under the control of the Taliban. The source said the transporters are forced to carry the Taliban’s receipt of levies while travelling from one district to another.
In Laghman, Nangarhar, Zabul, Nuristan and Kunar province, the Taliban also earn hefty amount of money through forest cutting, timber trade and trafficking of narcotics, arms and illegal mining. Owing to concerns, local officials did not share the estimates about the Taliban’s revenue collection in these provinces.
The Taliban have no tangible presence or customs in Panjshir and Badakhshan provinces. Local sources said the Taliban do have presence in Kapisa’s Najrab and Tagab districts, but they have no customs and do not engage in extortion.
In conversation with SW, the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, shared no details about the group’s income. He said the group pays salaries to its men via income earned through responsibility to ensure peace and security on main highways. He said the Taliban meet their financial needs from the self-styled customs they have in Nangarhar, Kandahar, Herat and Kunduz and Balkh provinces.