A Taxing Narrative: Miscalculating Revenues and Misunderstanding the Conflict in Afghanistan

A Taxing Narrative: Miscalculating Revenues and Misunderstanding the Conflict in Afghanistan

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Highlights

Authors David Mansfield
Type Policy note
Theme Governance and Political Economy
Language English
Date of Publication November 04, 2021
Total Pages 4
Available In English
Description
For more than two decades, illicit drug production has been seen by the UN, as well as some in western governments and the media, as synonymous with the Taliban. The estimates proffered of the amount of money the Taliban earns from drugs are staggering and often amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year. For example, the United Nations Office on Drug Control (UNODC) reported that the Taliban earned US$14.5 million in taxes on opium cultivation and up to $113 million on the manufacturing and trafficking of opiates in 2019; the United Nations Sanctions Monitoring Team and other analysts put the figure at as much as $400 million. The assumption that the Taliban collected significant amounts of money taxing the cultivation of opium, the production of opiates, and on the smuggling of drugs across Afghanistan’s borders is the bedrock on which a narrative of a narco-insurgency was constructed. Allegations of the involvement of some of its senior leadership in drugs trafficking cement this narrative to the point where some Western military leaders have argued that the Taliban was little more than a criminal enterprise whose territorial ambitions were primarily driven by its involvement in the drugs business. For more details, you can read our policy note.

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