Taliban jihadists are growing both financially and militarily


Following US President Joe Biden’s disastrous retreat from Afghanistan, while the country has gone into the notorious grips of the Taliban, according to media reports, these terrorist outfit is making billions of dollars by establishing dominance on Afghan poppy cultivators and cocaine producers and are selling drugs to targeted “Kafir” (infidel) Western nations – as part of its narco-jihad.

According to the United Nations, in 2020, Afghanistan accounted for about 85 percent of global opium production. Under the former Republic, the drug trade was Afghanistan’s largest economic sector, providing full-time employment to over half a million people. The most infamous component of this drug trade -poppy production – was so prosperous that experts doubted the Taliban’s ability to deliver on its promise to ban drugs without immiserating large numbers of Afghans and fomenting resistance against their regime.

To the last point, while the Afghan economy began spiraling shortly after the Taliban takeover due to sanctions, the freezing of central bank assets, and removal of foreign aid – thus depriving farmers of many alternatives to opium cultivation – the economic crisis also robbed the Taliban regime of resources to fight drugs, exacerbated by the withdrawal of foreign law enforcement agencies which had assisted the previous Republic’s efforts.

According to Rupert Stone, an independent journalist working on drugs, geopolitics and security in Asia, though less discussed than the poppy trade, the methamphetamine industry has also intensified in Afghanistan. Recent satellite imagery revealed an expansion of the Abdul Wadood bazaar, southwest Afghanistan’s major meth hub, and more than 250 mounds (or an estimated 11,886 cubic meters) of ephedra.

Rupert Stone further said:

… The trafficking of drugs via major highways out of Afghanistan remains high. Along the Balkan Route from Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey to Europe, heroin and meth continue to flow in large quantities, supplying markets throughout and outside Afghanistan’s immediate region.

At Torkham on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, customs reportedly seized an “unprecedented” amount of drugs in late 2021 and early 2022, including a record 130 kilogram haul of heroin. October also saw one of the biggest meth busts in Peshawar’s history. A Pakistani law enforcement official told me in January that trafficking had increased since the Taliban took over, having said in November that a “huge quantity” of narcotics was “reaching the coastal belt of Balochistan and Karachi”.

Furthermore, Pakistan is not only a transit country for methamphetamine leaving Afghanistan, but also a large market for the drug, which is popular in educational institutions. Pakistani drug treatment professionals told me that meth abuse was becoming rampant in the country. 

Afghanistan-origin drugs also make their way across South Asia. Sri Lanka, where there have been repeated maritime hauls since the Taliban takeover, seized 325 kilograms of heroin and meth in April 2022. In July, Nepal recorded an unusually large heroin bust which authorities suspect came from Afghanistan, pointing to a further expansion of the trade.

Narcotics trafficked from Afghanistan to Europe often travel through Pakistan and then Iran, where there have been massive busts in the southeast near the Afghan border. More than one hundred tons of drugs were seized in the area in the last eight months of 2021, according to local authorities. 

Big hauls have continued this year. Only recently, over one ton of opium was grabbed in the southeast and a record-breaking 1.1 tons of meth found hidden in tankers entering from Afghanistan. An Iranian official said that seizures of Afghanistan-origin meth and heroin had increased. From Iran, narcotics enter Turkey. Traffickers are reportedly exploiting unprecedented refugee flows to smuggle drugs across the border. Turkish authorities have also reported large seizures, including more than a ton of liquid and crystal meth intercepted in Istanbul in May and another large bust in July, 2022.

And, the results of this are profound. Meth has reached every single Turkish province, the government claims, and was second only to cannabis as the most widely-used substance in Istanbul, according to wastewater analysis. It is therefore no surprise that Ankara is prioritizing meth and increasing its efforts to combat trafficking. In 2021, Turkey intercepted 5.5 tons of the drug, up from 4.1 tons the previous year. Notably, this is double the amount seized in Europe as a whole.  

Afghanistan-origin meth has not only been flowing in large volumes to Iran, but also elsewhere in the region. There was an increase of “seizure events in the Near and Middle East” from 2020-2021, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Iraq has long been a destination for drugs smuggled from Iran, and in December 2021 reported a rise in drug-related arrests on its eastern border. Crystal meth accounted for 60 percent of the country’s drug trade in 2021, feeding a growing problem of domestic misuse.

Then there is the Gulf, where the United Arab Emirates announced in June [2022] that crystal meth was one of the most commonly seized drugs, with large hauls such as a mammoth bust of more than one ton in Dubai last April. Oman has also intercepted meth in 2022.

Central Asia has not escaped the narcotics problem, either. According to the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, drugs are smuggled through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and both have reported increased seizures this year. Tajikistan recorded a 52 percent rise in drug seizures during the first half of 2022, with its anti-narcotics chief stating that trafficking had increased since the Taliban took power. In Kyrgyzstan, about six tons of illicit drugs were intercepted in the first six months of 2022, 60 percent more than in the same period last year [2021].

Continued trafficking from Afghanistan has also been noted by Russia—a key destination for drugs smuggled through Central Asia – whose foreign ministry lamented in November [2021] that the “drug threat” was still a “pressing problem” and that “the situation has not changed after the Taliban came to power”.

Then there is the Southern Route through Pakistan and Iran to Africa. Recent years have seen heroin and meth from Afghanistan seized in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean as it is trafficked to Mozambique or Tanzania and then on to South Africa and other countries. In November 2021, alone, there were eight separate drug interdictions along this trafficking route by international maritime forces, which in 2021 seized a record amount of heroin and three times more meth than any year since 2016.

At the start of 2022, the Britain’s Royal Navy intercepted more than a ton of Afghanistan-origin heroin, hashish, and crystal meth in the Gulf of Oman, followed by another ninety kilograms of heroin in May.

Just imagine how much money Taliban jihadists are making every month by controlling Afghanistan-based narco-production and trafficking networks. Shouldn’t it be a few billion dollars each year? Most alarming side of this math is – a large portion of this cash would go towards spreading jihad and radical Islam throughout the world.

Meanwhile, in addition to plunging the Middle East back into turmoil, the Israel-Hamas war has already resulted in entities around the world seeking to exploit the palpable situation, and has even led some young Americans to re-evaluate Al Qaeda’s past comments on Palestine. At the same time, the global jihadist group itself is showing concerning signs of revival, having found refuge in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

According to counterterrorism experts, the current Taliban regime in Afghanistan has renewed its symbolic relationship with Al Qaeda. It is important to note, Al Qaeda is laying low by choice and secretly taking preparations in resurging as a much bigger monster, possibly by forming alliances with other jihadist outfits, including Hamas.

Meanwhile, some ignorant people are lobbying in favor of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan with the target of letting it get international recognition.

These individuals claim that security in Afghanistan has increased under the Taliban, seeming to forget or ignore the fact that the Taliban themselves were the biggest threat to civilian lives prior to seizing power.


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