Afghan government, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Biden Administration, civil society, corruption, drug trafficking, Extortion, Heroin, Illicit drugs, illicit mineral extraction, infrastructure, Meth, methamphetamine, mining, Narcotics, Opiates, opium, opium poppy, poppy cultivation, Taliban, US border
One of the favorite pastimes of the Biden Administration seems to be facilitating drug trafficking. Its open border policy facilitates drug trafficking, as does it chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which effectively handed power to the Taliban.
“Distr.: General 1 June 2021 Original: English 21-05690 (E) 020621 *2105690*
Letter dated 20 May 2021 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council: I have the honour to transmit herewith the twelfth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team established pursuant to resolution 1526 (2004), which was submitted to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011), in accordance with paragraph (a) of the annex to resolution 2557 (2020). I should be grateful if the present letter and the report could be brought to the attention of the Security Council and issued as a document of the Council. (Signed) T. S. Tirumurti Chair Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011)
Twelfth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolution 2557 (2020) concerning the Taliban and other associated individuals and entities constituting a threat to the peace stability and security of Afghanistan
The key development between May 2020 and April 2021 has been the evolution of the peace process in Afghanistan pursuant to the agreement signed in Doha in February 2020 and the stated intention of the United States of America and allied forces to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 2021. The international community, including a range of Member States, increased engagement during the period under review, with a view to promoting peace in Afghanistan.
It is difficult to predict how this dynamic will play out over the remainder of 2021. The Taliban’s messaging remains uncompromising, and it shows no sign of reducing the level of violence in Afghanistan to facilitate peace negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan and other Afghan stakeholders. The Taliban’s intent appears to be to continue to strengthen its military position as leverage. It believes that it can achieve almost all of its objectives by negotiation or, if necessary, by force. It is reported to be responsible for the great majority of targeted assassinations that have become a feature of the violence in Afghanistan and that appear to be undertaken with the objective of weakening the capacity of the Government and intimidating civil society.
The issue of narcotics in Afghanistan – the production and trafficking of poppy-based drugs and methamphetamine – remains unaddressed as yet in the Afghan peace process. This remains the Taliban’s largest single source of income. It also has a destabilizing and corrupting effect within Afghanistan and contributes significantly to the narcotics challenges facing the wider international community.
A significant part of the leadership of Al-Qaida (QDe.004) resides in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region, alongside Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent.
Large numbers of Al-Qaida fighters and other foreign extremist elements aligned with the Taliban are located in various parts of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida continued to suffer attrition during the period under review, with a number of senior figures killed, often alongside Taliban associates while co-located with them. The primary component of the Taliban in dealing with Al-Qaida is the Haqqani Network (TAe.012). Ties between the two groups remain close, based on ideological alignment, relationships forged through common struggle and intermarriage. The Taliban has begun to tighten its control over Al-Qaida by gathering information on foreign terrorist fighters and registering and restricting them. However, it has not made any concessions in this regard that it could not easily and quickly reverse, and it is impossible to assess with confidence that the Taliban will live up to its commitment to suppress any future international threat emanating from Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida and like-minded militants continue to celebrate developments in Afghanistan as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global radicalism.
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) (QDe.161) remains diminished from its zenith, following successive military setbacks that began in Jowzjan in summer 2018. However, since June 2020, it has had an ambitious new leader, Shahab al-Muhajir (not listed), and it remains active and dangerous, particularly if it is able, by positioning itself as the sole pure rejectionist group in Afghanistan, to recruit disaffected Taliban and other militants to swell its ranks. Member States have varying assessments of the extent of ISIL-K and al-Muhajir’s links with the Haqqani Network. Meanwhile, the Al-Sadiq office is co-located with ISIL-K in Afghanistan, pursuing a regional agenda in Central and South Asia on behalf of the ISIL core….”
“Taliban finances and connections to criminal activity
50. The primary sources of Taliban financing remain criminal activities, including drug trafficking and opium poppy production, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, mineral exploitation and revenues from tax collection in areas under Taliban control or influence. According to Member States, external financial support, including donations from wealthy individuals and a network of non-governmental charitable foundations also account for a significant part of Taliban income. While impossible to ascertain to any degree of precision, estimates of annual income generated by the Taliban range from $300 million to $1.6 billion.
51. Member States report that since becoming second deputy to Haibatullah Akhundzada, Mullah Yaqub has pursued greater financial independence for the Taliban, in part by focusing efforts on controlling unexplored mineral-rich areas of Afghanistan. One Member State estimated that in 2020, profits from the mining sector earned the Taliban approximately $464 million.
52. Afghan officials reported that of all mining zones, government control extended to only 281, which were located across 16 provinces. A further 148 zones in 12 provinces were under the control of local warlords, while the Taliban were assessed to hold authority over the remaining 280 zones dispersed among 26 provinces. The Taliban derived income from mining directly under their control and are assessed to derive further revenues from at least some of the mining areas controlled by the warlords. No information exists to indicate how many actual mines are operating in each zone not under government control, nor is there any reliable method to gauge quantities being extracted from individual mines on a daily basis.
53. When the Afghan Government announced policy changes to issue contracts for legitimate mining companies operating in Taliban-controlled areas (thereby gaining taxes in exchange for legalizing existing mining), the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum reported a 400 per cent increase in extraction from Taliban mining zones in an effort to pre-empt any potential loss of revenue.23
54. Previous information related to illicit mineral extraction and links to the Taliban can be found in the Monitoring Team’s fourth report (see S/2014/402, paras. 51–55), special report (see S/2015/79, paras. 22–30), sixth report (see S/2015/648, paras. 42– 47), tenth report (see S/2019/481, paras. 28–34) and eleventh report (see S/2020/415, paras. 55 and 56).
55. Authoritative information regarding opium poppy crop yields and trends in Afghanistan for the April 2020–April 2021 reporting period was not available to the Monitoring Team. Notwithstanding the lack of recent information, Member States consistently report that the crop continues to represent the most significant source of income for the Taliban, with one estimate giving it at a total of approximately $460 million during 2020.
56. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to have had a material impact on trading routes, with the so-called Balkan and southern routes retaining their status as the primary trafficking channels for Afghan opiates. 24 The Caucasus branch of the routes appears to have remained a likely transit corridor for opiates to European markets. The seizure of Afghan heroin in Azerbaijan reportedly increased to 2,240 kg in 2020, compared to 802 kg in 2019. At the same time, the pattern and origin of methamphetamine seizures in countries neighbouring Afghanistan suggest that the manufacture of the drug in Afghanistan remained steady during the COVID-19 pandemic.25
57. In the first nine months of 2020, the Counter-Narcotics Police of the Ministry of Interior Affairs of Afghanistan carried out 2,072 actions, a decline from 2,804 over the same period in 2019. Over 2,400 suspects were arrested, and approximately 195 tonnes of drugs were seized, more than a 50 per cent decrease over the same period in 2019. Most seizures were of cannabis-type drugs. Operations resulted in the dismantling of 12 drug laboratories.
58. The data indicates an overall decline in the total number of illicit narcotic seizures by Afghan law enforcement agencies in 2020 relative to previous years. Afghan authorities have attributed this at least in part to the gradual expansion of Taliban-controlled territory in the country, particularly in key border provinces where transhipments occur.
59. While not a new tactic, the Taliban have increasingly used expanding territorial control to extort monies from a wide range of public infrastructure services, including road construction, telecommunications and road transport.
As an example, daily taxes collected from illegal Taliban vehicle checkpoints between Pul-e Khumri and Mazar-e Sharif alone are estimated to be substantial. Control of key lines of communication for the Taliban, while serving a lucrative cash generator, critically also denies freedom of movement for Afghan Forces, a problem that increases exponentially as more territory and road communications come under Taliban sway.
60. In addition to extortion targeting infrastructure services, the Taliban have targeted employees and management of infrastructure companies for kidnapping and killing. Attacks against physical infrastructure, such as the blowing up of mobile telecommunication masts and electricity towers, appear part of organized and planned efforts by the Taliban to undermine government utilities in strategic locations, dissuade private companies from working with elected officials and generally intimidate the population and potential opponents of the group.
22 FDD’s Long War Journal, “Analysis: Al Qaeda continues to operate throughout Afghanistan”, 8 April 2021, available at https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2021/04/analysis-al-qaeda-continues-to-operate-throughout-afghanistan.php.
23 Estimates were derived by the daily volume of fully laden marble trucks exiting mining zones. A simplified example would be for a mining area that normally produced 25 fully laden trucks per day increasing that number to more than 100 per day.
24 UNODC, “Drugs monitoring platform brief: possible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trafficking in opiates and methamphetamine originating in Afghanistan”, available at https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/covid/DMP_Brief_short.pdf.
25 Ibid.” See the entire document here: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N21/107/61/PDF/N2110761.pdf
Click to enlarge images:
There are literal oil and gas pipelines and there are metaphorical drug pipelines with similar routes: