Kabul (Afghanistan) | Jagran News Desk: Taliban, the hardcore Islamist group formed in the 1990s after the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan, has captured most of the territories in the war-torn country as the United States (US) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) pull out their troops from there.

Just like in the 1990s, the Afghan defence forces are struggling to hold their forts against Taliban as Washington and its allies formally withdraw from the scene. Images and videos have gone viral on social where Taliban fighters could be seen using sophisticated weapons as they continue their march towards Kabul.

In the viral pictures and videos, Taliban fighters look like "disciplined and well-trained" soldiers which leave us to one question -- how Taliban funds itself and its fighters in Afghanistan?

In 2016, Forbes had claimed that Taliban, which aims to establish an "Islamic theocracy" in Afghanistan, has an annual turnover of over USD 400 million. It said that drug trafficking, protection money, donations and sponsorship fees and taxes were the main source of income for Taliban.

Later, a NATO report, accessed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, claimed that Taliban's annual budget had increased to USD 1.6 billion in the financial year 2019-20. It said that the militant group had increased its profits through illicit drug trade, illegal mining, and exports.

"That financial independence enables the Afghan Taliban to self-fund its insurgency without the need for support from governments or citizens of other countries," the report claimed. "It also, arguably, provides insurance for the Taliban’s continued relationship with other listed terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda".

The report claimed that Taliban earns USD 464 million from mining and USD 416 million from drugs. It also earns USD 240 million from foreign countries and individuals, USD 240 million from exports, USD 160 million from taxes, and USD 80 million from real estate.

The report further said that the opium trade is also a major source of revenue for Taliban, adding that "90 per cent of the world's heroin comes from Afghanistan's Helmand River valley". "The Taliban has developed its financing arrangements in order to become an independent political and military entity," the report said.

The report said that Pakistan is "Taliban's main sponsor" and has been providing arms, training and intelligence to them. Notably, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has also slammed Pakistan several times for its continuous support to Taliban and the militants.

"Contrary to repeated assurances by Prime Minister Khan and his generals that Pakistan does not find a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in Pakistan’s interest and short of use of force will use its power and influence to make Taliban negotiate seriously, networks and organisations supporting Taliban are openly celebrating the destruction of the assets and capabilities of the Afghan people and state," Ghani had said.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma