The Taliban through tactical declarations have been pretending to halt production of narcotics in Afghanistan to evade close international scrutiny on opium cultivation in the country.
However, the Taliban run a taxation system to conduct their insurgent operations, which include the illegal drug trade, reported a Canada-based thinktank, International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS).
Taliban's involvement with the illicit drug economy has brought revenues for the insurgent group. According to a study conducted in the year 2018, out of the total annual income of the Taliban of USD 1.5 billion, the drug trade is estimated to contribute about USD 420 million a year.
Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer, which is refined to produce heroin. Afghanistan will soon turn out to be a major supplier of heroin owing to the estimated annual export value of USD 1.5 to USD 3 billion. Opium harvesting in the country has led to 120,000 jobs in the year 2019, reported IFFRAS.
Further, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), synthetic drugs are estimated to contribute over 46.8 million euros to local wages every year.
The production of heroin in Afghanistan using oven-dried opium is estimated to be around 6,000 tons. After the production, a levy is imposed on the opium transportation that travels from production locations to their user units, reported IFFRAS. Transportation levies account for almost USD 750,000 in income per year.
Topped by opium production, there is another source of income for the Taliban which is protection money. Charges are applied for armed protection of transported opiates. Some of the Taliban commanders also run drug labs themselves as an overseeing force.
Increased facilities for the storage and stock of opium have further driven Afghanistan and its labour towards the production of methamphetamine. The methamphetamine industry has provided job opportunities to more than 20,000 persons out of which 5000 are employed in methamphetamine labs.
However, owing to the indicated bans on the cultivation of opium, accompanied by an uncertain upcoming season, raw opium rates have almost tripled from USD 70 to USD 200. reported IFFRAS. Nevertheless, crops in the new season might stabilize the new season.
Although apparently, the Taliban have indicated a curb on opium, the international community might recall the Taliban's previous promises, such as non-violent behaviour and women's rights before they fell for new ones. The sustenance and longevity provided by the drug trade would make it quite difficult for the Taliban to camouflage its production under false promises.