UN: Taliban strengthen ties to organised crime, acting like ‘godfathers’

Hostage takings by the Taliban have increased since 2005, with ransoms paid totaling at least US$16 million. — AFP pic
Hostage takings by the Taliban have increased since 2005, with ransoms paid totaling at least US$16 million. — AFP pic

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 10 — The Taliban are increasing their dealings with narcotics traffickers, illegal mining rings and kidnappers for ransom, in a worrying development for Afghanistan's new leaders, a UN report said yesterday.

"They are increasingly acting more like 'godfathers' than a 'government in waiting,'" said the report by the UN panel of experts on the Taliban.

While the Taliban's ties to drugs traffickers dates back to the 1990s, the report also details the movement's involvement in controlling natural resources, and thus depriving the central government of revenue.

Lapis lazuli mines in northeastern Badakhshan province are controlled by the Taliban who demand around US$1 million (RM3.6 million) annually from miners in exchange for being allowed to mine without fear of Taliban attacks, said the report.

In addition, the Taliban earn US$240,000 to US$360,000 per year in extortion from truckers who carry the stone away from the mines located in a predominantly Tajik-populated area.

The Taliban also pocket two thirds of earnings from chromite mining in southeast Paktika province and an estimated US$16 million annually from ruby mining in Jagdalak, east of Kabul, the report said.

Hostage takings by the Taliban have increased since 2005, with ransoms paid totaling at least US$16 million, according to the report. 

"The scale and depth of this cooperation is new, and builds on decades of interaction between the Taliban and others involved in criminal behavior," said the report.

The experts argued that the Taliban's strengthened ties with organised crime would make it more difficult to foster reconciliation as the movement now has little economic incentive to make peace.

The report suggested that the Security Council could use targeted sanctions to take aim at the Taliban's criminal connections.

"This is all the more reason to intensify efforts to use the Security Council sanctions regime to expose and disrupt Taliban involvement in, and links to, criminal activity," said the report. 

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani is struggling to form a unity government four months after he took office on a pledge to set up a new team that could fight corruption and the Taliban insurgency.

The Taliban was ousted from power in 2001 in a US-led NATO campaign, but they have continued to wage attacks. — AFP

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