The Taliban are increasingly acting more like gangsters than a “government in waiting,” UN experts monitoring sanctions against the Islamic fundamentalist insurgents said in a report circulated Monday.
The panel of experts said the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, appear to be increasing their criminal activity including narcotics trafficking, illicit mining, extortion for using roads and kidnapping for ransom.
“The scale and depth of this cooperation is new, and builds on decades of interaction between the Taliban and others involved in criminal behavior,” the panel said in a report to the UN Security Council.
The experts said this new trend “has real consequences for peace and security in Afghanistan” because it encourages Taliban members reaping the greatest financial benefits “to oppose any meaningful process of reconciliation with the new government.”
President Ashraf Ghani has said he said he wants to bring peace to Afghanistan after more than 30 years of continuous war and is trying to isolate the Taliban and bring them to the negotiating table.
The panel urged the Security Council to intensify its use of sanctions “to expose and disrupt Taliban involvement in, and links to, criminal activity.”
While donations from outside benefactors play a role in the Taliban’s finances, the experts said it generates more assets from cultivating opium poppies and producing and transporting narcotics, investing in Afghan companies, money-laundering operations, kidnapping for ransom, extorting Afghan businesses and illegally exploiting natural resources.
The report identified a number of alleged Taliban traffickers who tap into the supply chain at every stage of the narcotics trade.
It said the Taliban continues to mine onyx in marble-rich southern Helmand province, extorts around $1 million annually from individuals that want to exploit lapis lazuli mines in Badakhshan province, and demands about 15 percent of total proceeds- which could be as high as $16 million annually- for providing “security” and facilitating illegal ruby mining in Jagdalak in Kabul province.
Since 2005, ransom paid to the Taliban for international hostages is estimated to amount to at least $16 million, the panel said, although the Taliban has claimed to have received more than $20 million.