Taliban becomes 'world's richest terror group as jihadis sit on £2TRILLION worth of oil, drugs & stolen cash08/25/2021
THE Taliban is now the world's richest terror group as they are sitting on an estimated fortune of $2trillion with stolen cash, drug money, oil and other natural resources under its control.
It took the ruthless militants just two weeks to snatch control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops – and it means the Taliban are now sitting on vast swathes of untapped underground wealth.
Afghanistan's provinces are peppered with iron, copper, gold, coal and other deposits once said to be worth around £2trillion, according to nation's Ministry of Mines.
And in 2010, an oilfield with an estimated 1.8billion barrels was discovered which is estimated to be worth around £100billion.
The war-ravaged country is also believed to have one the world's largest deposits of lithium – an essential but scarce component needed for batteries in the global boom in electric cars.
But most of Afghanistan's mineral wealth has remained in the ground after decades of bloodshed, meaning the Taliban leaders could now tap into a whopping fortune.
With the country now under their control, the Taliban could tap into this extraordinary wealth by selling lucrative contracts to other countries such as China.
Afghanistan is believed to have belief it 2.2billion tonnes of iron ore, worth around £250billion, and an estimated 2,700kg of gold worth £123million.
And there is an estimated 500 million barrels of natural gas beneath the war-torn nation.
All these valuable and highly sought after materials will be prized by the Taliban – should they find a way to dig them out of the earth.
The militants already earn an estimated £335million every year from mining iron ore, marble, copper, gold and zinc, according to NATO figures, and also rake in massive sums from the world heroin trade, real estate and charitable donations.
And reports of recent days claim the Taliban fighters are flaunting pallets of cash left behind by troops and other organisations – along with showing off stolen US weapons seized from the Afghan army.
Experts are alarmed by the prospect of the Taliban's grip on such a huge fortune, warning the "world has a lot to worry about".
If the Taliban is the same old Taliban, then the world has a lot to worry about.
Ashok Swain, professor of peace and conflict research at Sweden's Uppsala University, told The Sun Online: "If the Taliban is the same old Taliban, then the world has a lot to worry about.
"The Taliban victory will not only be a morale booster for other Islamist terror groups around the world, but it will also strengthen them further with the help of arms and drug money."
Dr Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director at Counter Extremist Project, warned the Taliban now has the ability to "tap into any economic activity in the country".
"Since the Taliban have now gained control over Afghanistan by military means, it will be their responsibility to not only rule by force but to govern," the former coordinator of the ISIL, al-Qaeda and Taliban monitoring team at the UN Security Council told The Sun Online.
"It remains to be seen if they demonstrate an interest in doing so or whether their income continues to be diverted primarily to finance their fighting machine and bankroll the rather lavish lifestyles of their leaders."
Meanwhile, Afghanistan remains the world's largest producer of opium and looks certain to remain in the top spot under the Taliban.
Some UN and US officials worry Afghanistan's slide into chaos will create the perfect conditions for a boom in opium production – which could prove to be a colossal boost to the Taliban's strength.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, has long been involved in the country's mammoth narcotics trade.
From opium extraction, trafficking and "taxing" drug labs to charging smugglers fees for shipments bound for Africa, Asia, Europe, Canada, Russia, and the Middle East, the Taliban fanatics have reaped millions from the trade.
"Drug production increased significantly, in all areas in which the Taliban gained control," Dr Schindler told The Sun Online.
"From its very inception, the Taliban movement had been bankrolled by narcotic traffickers.
"Farming poppies was also an important recruitment tool as Taliban commanders kept Afghan poppy farmers in constant financial debt to the movement, requiring them to 'work off' their financial debt as fighters during the annual fighting seasons."
UN officials claim the militant group likely earned more than $400 million between 2018 and 2019 from Afghanistan's narcotics industry.
And the US military estimates the Taliban earns a whopping 60 per cent of their annual income from the trade.
Most of the poppy growing takes place in areas under Taliban rule and the militants run a sophisticated financial network and taxation system to pay for insurgent operations, the BBC reports.
It's thought the Taliban's grip on such a massive slice of Afghanistan's lucrative drug trade will have allowed the terror group to prepare for its stunning advance to power.
And as the United States wraps up its longest war, the Taliban have pounced on a stash of weapons and cash left behind by troops.
WEAPONS OF TERROR
Footage shared by the Hindustan Times appeared to show the militants flaunting and counting piles of US dollars in another boost to the group's growing wealth.
The consequence of the rapid US pullout led to the collapse of the Afghan army and handed billions of pounds worth of equipment to the Taliban as they raided weapons caches.
Militants are thought to have made off with up to £13billion worth of abandoned weapons and vehicles.
Many of the weapons are US military grade having been handed over by Washington as part of the £80billion spent trying to prop up Afghanistan's armed forces.
Trading in the Taliban favourite, the AK-47, fighters are now regularly seen cradling military-grade US assault weapons.
But Joseph Parkes, Asia security analyst at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, warned the chaotic leadership of the Taliban might prove to be a problem.
The international community should approach the Taliban with open eyes and be conscious of the threat they and their terrorist-partners will likely continue to present.
"The Taliban has taken power but the transition from insurgent group to national government will be far from straightforward," he told CNN.
"Functional governance of the nascent mineral sector is likely many years away."
And the challenge of exploiting the resources in an unstable country and with little mining infrastructure is daunting for most foreign investors.
"Tapping into this wealth would take years under ideal circumstances," Dr Schindler said.
"Sadly, the perception of Afghanistan turning into an economic powerhouse in the short to medium term, is very likely an unrealistic scenario."
He added: "Whether or not part of the income of the Taliban is going to be used to enable al-Qaida and its affiliates to recreate a new terror infrastructure in Afghanistan remains to be seen.
"The international community should approach the Taliban with open eyes and be conscious of the threat they and their terrorist-partners will likely continue to present."
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