Taliban raise nearly $ 1 billion through control of Afghan businesses – Middle East

Taliban Raise Nearly $ 1 Billion Through Control Of Afghan Businesses

Running a business in Afghanistan has one unwritten rule: pay the Taliban.

Abdul Ahad Wahidi learned this the hard way when insurgents blew up a pipeline last year that supplies the country’s only fertilizer plant after its operator refused to pay. Now he and other factory workers pay more than 14% of their wages to the Taliban – nearly five times more than they pay the government in taxes.

“The government cannot protect the pipeline, which has forced us to compromise with the enemy of the government,” said Wahidi, who heads the plant’s union in northern Afghanistan. “Paying part of our income to the Taliban is much better than shutting down the factory.”

This is just one example of the wide range of hostile arrangements imposed on Afghan businesses by the Taliban, which controls or contests over half of the country. The group raises up to $ 1.5 billion a year through similar mafia-style deals, drug trade controls and overseas donations, according to a United Nations Security Council report. last year. This equates to about 25%. 100 of the government’s annual budget.

The Taliban’s powerful tax-collection tactics in areas under their control are just one reason Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and many of the country’s 38 million citizens are opposed to any potential power-sharing deal with it. the militant group. Yet Afghanistan’s elected leaders may have no choice but to work with the Taliban as President Joe Biden prepares to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops by September 11.

If they want to rule Afghanistan, either by sharing power or by taking it by force, they will either have to undergo a lot of adaptation, or their regime will face as much poverty – and as many difficulties – as it does. he did it in the country. 1990, ”said Andrew Watkins, senior analyst at International Crisis Group. “It is difficult to predict whether they will adapt once they reach this point and remove the most predatory elements of taxation.”

Peace plan talks have stalled since Biden’s announcement, with the Taliban refusing to attend a US-sponsored summit in Istanbul scheduled to begin on April 24 is now postponed to more than three weeks after the Ramadan. Ghani is unhappy that he was forced to strike a US-led peace deal with the Taliban, who refuse to recognize his authority in Afghanistan even as he regularly meets with his government officials in Doha, Qatar.

Tax deals with the Taliban show that a political settlement in Afghanistan remains a long way off even as Biden plans to withdraw his troops, according to Omar Samad, senior analyst at the Atlantic Council and former Afghan ambassador to Canada and France.

“The Afghan war must end within the framework of a political process which brings together all the major factions around a peace table to discuss and agree on a future political settlement,” he said. “Once that is done, only then can we ensure a unified and reformed tax system that tackles the corruption and double taxation problems that exist in the country.”

The UN Security Council has described the operations of the Taliban as a “large-scale criminal enterprise of levying taxes on almost all infrastructure, utilities, agriculture and social industry in areas under their control or influence “. In the northern provinces, the Taliban is also taxing teachers’ salaries and extorting money from motorists on highways, according to Saifura Niazi, an Afghan lawmaker from Balkh province, which is home to the targeted fertilizer plant.

“Taliban taxes have been a serious problem,” she said in an interview, adding that the group’s gains on the battlefield have boosted confidence that it has the upper hand in talks with the United States. United. “This means that government influence is waning and Taliban control over local populations appears to be expanding.”

Afghanistan’s only fertilizer factory, known locally as Kod-e-Barq for the town near the provincial capital of Mazar-e-Sharif, was built nearly half a century ago by The soviet union. After its operator refused to pay the Taliban last year, insurgents blew up part of a 57-kilometer (35-mile) pipeline transferring gas from the nearby town of Shebergan to the plant.

The fertilizer plant needs the pipeline gas for the 14-megawatt power plant that powers its obsolete machinery. The factory closed for several months until the Ghani administration fought the Taliban to fix it, which resulted in the deaths of several government soldiers. But its owners are still paying the Taliban now.

A Taliban commander on the outskirts of the northern city of Jowzjan province, which borders Turkmenistan, confirmed that the group was receiving funds from the plant. “The pipeline crosses our territory and they have to pay for it,” said Gul Hamdard, who negotiated terms with Wahidi, the union leader. Local government officials in Balkh province were not immediately available for comment.

“The sad truth is that we are really working for the Taliban, not for the government,” said a factory worker, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “We are unfortunately funding their murderous insurgency.”

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