Explained: The Taliban war chest

Explained: The Taliban war chest

In News:

  • After recapturing Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, the Taliban have taken control over most of the country, as well as any weapon and equipment left behind by fleeing Afghan forces.

What’s in today’s article:

  • Taliban’s revenues
  • Sources of revenue, including Drug trade, Mining and Donations
  • Mlitary assets

News Summary:

  • The Taliban’s ability to take over most of the country brought focus on its revenue and assets and their sources.


  • In 2016, Forbes listed Taliban as the 5th richest of the 10 Terrorist organisations that they had featured.
  • It listed Taliban’s primary sources of revenue as drug traffickingprotection money and donations.
  • In a May 2020 report, the UN Security Council estimated that overall Taliban annual combined revenues range from $300 million to upwards of $1.5 billion per annum.
  • As per some source, the Taliban also own properties worth tens of millions of dollars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sources of revenue

Flourishing Drug Trade:

  • Afghanistan accounted for 85% of the total global opium production in 2020.
  • The United States has spent more than $8 billion since 2011 in an unsuccessful attempt to deprive the Taliban of their profits from drug trafficking.
  • Yet, it is estimated that in March 2020, the Taliban earned over $416 million from drug trafficking.
  • While heroin cultivation and production have provided the bulk of Taliban revenue for many years, the emergence of methamphetamine in Afghanistan is giving rise to a major new drug industry with significant profit margins.

Mining, Taxes and Donations:

  • The Taliban has also expanded its financial power in recent years through increased profits from illegal mining and exports.
    • Afghanistan has over 1,400 mineral fields containing barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulphur, talc, and zinc, among many other minerals.
    • According to the United States Geological Survey, Afghanistan has an estimated $1 trillion of untapped minerals.

  • It is estimated that in March 2020, the Taliban earned over $450 million from illegal mining and $160 million from extortion and taxes in the areas and on the highways it controlled.

Support from other countries:

  • Pakistan is accused of diverting to the Taliban, the funds that it received to fight against the Taliban itself.
  • As per some sources, Taliban has also received $240 million in donations, largely from Persian Gulf nations.

Military assets:

Seized US military assets:

  • Between 2002 and 2017, the United States gave the Afghan military an estimated $28 billion in weaponry, including guns, rockets, night-vision goggles and small drones for intelligence gathering.
  • The Afghan Air Force had a total of 167 aircraft, including jets and helicopters that were “usable/in-country” as of June 30, 2021.
  • Most of these assets are now in Taliban’s control.

India’s weaponry:

  • In 2019, India had donated four Mi-24 attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force as well as three Cheetah light utility helicopters, among other equipment.
  • Some of these assets are also now in Taliban’s control.

Iran’s supply:

  • A November 2019 report by the US Defence Intelligence Agency noted that since at least 2007, Iran had been supplying weapons and military equipment to the Taliban in western Afghanistan.

 International Relations