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IS Smuggling Wood to Finance Militancy in Afghanistan

Map showing the Kot and Deh Bala districts in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
Map showing the Kot and Deh Bala districts in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

Islamic State is chopping down fruit trees and smuggling the timber into Pakistan, claim Afghan officials and local residents of the Deh Bala district of eastern Nangarhar province where the terrorist group operates.

"Some of the local residents who previously helped the Taliban [are] now helping IS militants, Gul Khan Shinwari, a local tribal leader told VOA.

"IS militants also took our entire pine nuts crop and destroyed our source of income," he added.

The Deh Bala district in eastern Nangarhar has thousands of pine nut trees that locals rely on as the only natural source of income.Similar incidents were also reported in the neighboring Achin and Nazian districts where locals said IS militants using cutting-edge technology to cut down the jungles.

Smuggling goods

Local residents claim the strongmen in the districts had previously helped the Taliban and are now helping IS militants cut the trees and sell a portion of it as firewood in local markets, and smuggling logs of wood to neighboring Pakistan where the demand for lumber is high.

They also claim that IS militants are hiring locals to help them cut the trees.

Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi, Nangarhar police chief, confirmed the smuggling reports and blamed the locals for not being cooperative.

"Mines are being planted, schools are being burned, and jungles are being cut, yet locals do not cooperate with the police to provide better security and prevent smuggling of goods," Rahimi said
Afghanistan has a more than 2,000-kilometer border with Pakistan, where according to Pakistani officials, 70,000 people cross every day, including smugglers and militants.

"Smuggling goods between Afghanistan and Pakistan is nothing new, including woods," Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistan-based political and military analyst, told VOA.

"The Pakistani and Afghan governments have been trying to prevent the smuggling of goods, but due to unmonitored border areas, the problem persists," he added.

Locals in the eastern Nangarhar province charge that IS militants had also illegally excavated unspecified mines in the Kot and Achin districts in a bid to overcome their financial needs.

Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan is famous for its precious stone mines.

According to an Afghan anti-corruption network report published in 2017, militant groups received at least $46 million from minerals and precious stones illegally exported in 2016 from the eastern Nangarhar province to neighboring Pakistan.

Ziaurahman Hasrat contributed to this report.