Where the Taliban get their weapons from – exposed

Kabul: CNN's Clarissa Ward details Taliban confrontation

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While the success of the Taliban may have stunned many parts of the world, the Taliban’s extensive funding network has given them billions of dollars to fight back against western forces. The militia group did not only grab political power in the takeover – the Taliban now has an array of modern military equipment gathered from the western-backed Afghanistan security forces.

Who provides the Taliban’s weapons?

The Taliban have accumulated an enormous amount of firepower from collapsed Afghan security forces, funded and supplied for by the US.

The US spent billions on arming, training and supporting Afghan forces for the past 20 years but in two short weeks the Taliban have become the ultimate beneficiary of the investments.

Robert Crews, an expert on Afghanistan at Stanford University, told the Washington Post: “One of the first moves the Taliban has made in moving into new territory is to go to a government headquarters, arrest or kill those figures, open the prisons, and then go to the government bases and seize the weapons.”

The US has also previously accused Russia of providing arms to the Taliban.

In a BBC interview in 2018, General John Nicholson claimed weapons were being smuggled into Afghanistan from neighbouring Tajikistan and accused Russia of being behind the deadly arms trade.

He said: “We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and they said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban.”

The Taliban has also stripped ordinary citizens of guns and other arms, saying they should now “feel safe”.

A spokesman for the militant group said: “We understand people kept weapons for personal safety. We are not here to harm innocent civilians”.

How is the Taliban funded?
According to a June 2021 report by the UN-based on member-state intelligence, most of the Taliban’s money is sourced from criminal activity such as opium production, drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. 

The Taliban’s income sources were revealed by Mullah Yaqoob, son of the late Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, in a confidential report commissioned by Nato.

At the end of the 2020 financial year, the Taliban made $600 million (£438 million) from the opium trade.

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Hanif Sufizada, finance expert at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said Afghanistan accounted for approximately 84 percent of global opium production from 2015 to 2020, with much of the profits going to the Taliban.

He said: “Afghanistan is one of the world’s major producers of raw opium and because the West decided right about 2005 that they would start clamping down around the drug trade … it drew the opium trade into arms of the Taliban.

“Both were under fire from NATO and the United States, so it was natural to go into alliance with the Taliban protecting the opium trade profits from Western and Afghanistan governments.”

Mining iron ore, marble, copper, gold, zinc and other metals and rare-earth minerals in the plentiful mountains of Afghanistan earns the Taliban an estimated $460 million (£336 million), according to NATO.

According to experts, the Taliban is likely to end up with even more spending money if it goes into a partnership with China for these minerals and metals.

Dr Charles Miller, senior lecturer in international relations at the Australian National University, predicts the Taliban’s income will be bolstered by a partnership.

He said: “The Chinese have been making overtures to the Taliban for some time now.

“I think the Chinese are looking to start doing business with the Taliban and one of the reasons is Afghanistan has quite a lot of natural resources, especially lithium which is used in batteries and iron ore,” he told news.com.au.

“Although the reserves are not as big compared to what Australia has got, if China and the Taliban are friendly with one another the Chinese have a source that is closer and more reliable than Australia, so I think the Taliban may very well end up having more money.

“It wouldn’t be surprising as they invited a Taliban representative to Beijing a month or two ago.”

Dr Miller noted that any partnership with China would not be immediate, as the Taliban would need to build its own infrastructure to mine minerals, as well as investing in transportation to get goods back to China.

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