Afghan Taliban using extortion money to buy Russian weapons

By Sulaiman


An Afghan Taliban member searches a commuter on the outskirts of Gardez, Paktia Province, July 18. In areas under Taliban control in Farah Province, militants have set up illegal customs stations, collecting up to 30 million AFN ($432,530) per month, according to local officials. [Faridullah Ahmadzai/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan officials are preparing to crack down on the recent Taliban scheme of collecting illegal taxes at temporary, make-shift 'customs stations', local officials say.

The customs stations in Pusht-e-Koh District, Farah Province, have been bringing in up to 30 million AFN ($432,530) per month, which the Taliban then use to purchase weapons from Russia and Iran, according to Dadullah Qani, a member of the Farah Provincial Council.

Afghan officials say security forces are preparing to respond to the Taliban's extortion efforts.

"The Ministry of Defence has directed the 207th Zafar Corps to launch an operation in Farah Province to crack down on the Taliban as soon as possible, especially on the routes where they commit their acts of extortion," said Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.

Funding the Taliban war machine

The customs scheme is one of the Taliban's many acts of extortion -- such as exactions under the pretext of ushr and zakat, ransom taking and drug trafficking -- that constitute a large portion of the Taliban's revenue sources, local officials and residents say.

The Taliban have kept their war machine active through these efforts, they say.

"In areas under their control, the Taliban collect from each farmer an annual tax of 6,000 to 12,000 AFN ($87 to $173)," Qani said. "Every Friday, they also collect tax from shops located in Khak-e-Safid and Bakwa districts, both of which are under Taliban control."

"Up to 300 cars transporting merchants' goods and merchandise go through the Taliban's customs station every day," Jamila Amini, another member of the Farah Provincial Council, told Salaam Times. "The group's monthly customs revenue from this source alone is estimated at 30 million AFN."

"In addition to purchasing modern weapons with money from taxation, extortion and drug trafficking and the financial help they receive from Iran, the Taliban have kept their war machine active in Farah Province with the same money," she said.

Purchasing weapons from Russia

The Taliban are purchasing weapons with the illegal money they collect, Amini said.

"They buy modern weapons from countries like Russia, Iran and Pakistan," she said, adding that on December 14 "the Taliban killed a police officer with a scope-equipped weapon in Pusht Rod District."

"Recently, the Taliban have used extremely advanced weapons they didn't have before," Qani said. "Mostly, the Taliban are using Russian-made weapons."

"Two months ago, in a face-to-face fight with the Taliban [in Farah], Afghan security forces seized a weapon equipped with a laser sight that had Russian markings," he said.

"The Taliban's use of Russian-made weapons indicates that Russians are not only [arming] the Taliban but also sell [modern] hardware to them like laser-equipped weapons," Qani said.

Scope of war 'expanding'

"The Taliban's multi-million-afghani income has expanded the scope of war compared to what it was in the past," Mohammad Sardar, a resident of Farah city, told Salaam Times.

"Historically, war and violence in this province used to wane in wintertime and with the arrival of low temperatures," he said. "This year with the arrival of winter, however, the war has intensified in various areas of Farah."

"This intensification of war has made residents of Farah Province worried about their future," Sardar said.

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