The Afghan government is indirectly but knowingly funnelling money to the Taliban through the country’s lucrative marble business, the Guardian has learned. Afghanistan’s vast mineral deposits, which under different circumstances could fund development, instead nourish some of the worst ills plaguing the war-torn nation: corruption, smuggling and a militant insurgency.
In Helmand province, large marble reserves are in areas long under Taliban control. The government, largely unable to extract marble on its own and intent on maintaining an embryonic marble industry, buys the stone from private companies, who in turn pay the Taliban ample taxes and for extraction rights.
As a result, the government adds to a revenue stream into the militant group’s coffers worth millions of dollars each year. In 2014, a UN monitoring team estimated that at least two-thirds of the $15m (£10m) made on Helmand marble each year went to the Taliban.
The presidential envoy to Helmand, Abdul Jabbar Qahraman, put the figure even higher. He told the Guardian that the Taliban now made $50,000-$60,000 per day from marble, or more than $18m (£12m) annually.
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