Taliban Likely to Continue Afghanistan’s Lucrative Drug Trade: Experts

With the Taliban’s takeover of large swathes of Afghanistan, the group is poised to take control of the country’s billion-dollar opium and heroin trade.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest illicit opiate supplier, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimating the country accounts for 80 percent of global opium and heroin supply.

Since taking power in Kabul, the group has indicated it will move to ban the drug trade. But as the Taliban looks to secure cash flow to sustain a new regime, analysts believe that the country’s already bustling drug trade will continue to grow.

The Taliban has leveraged the illicit opium and heroin trade for its own economic gain since the group formed and rose to power in the early-to-mid 1990s.

“The Taliban considers themselves devout Muslims. But, when it comes to cultivating and exporting opium, they don’t have an issue,” said Terry Blevins, the chief executive officer of ARMAPLEX Security and a former police sergeant.

While the terrorist group has changed its narrative around its narcotics trade in the past, it has remained consistent in using the drugs to fund its operations, according to Jason Li, a research associate with the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center.

Estimates of the Taliban’s annual revenue from drug trade range from the tens of millions up to $400 million, according to one U.N. report, which the group earns from levying taxes on opium production, heroin labs, and drug traffickers. A 2018 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report said that illicit narcotics account for 60 percent of the Taliban’s annual revenue.- READ MORE