Airstrikes on narcotics processing labs may be forcing the Taliban to seek new ways to finance their insurgency in southern Afghanistan.
Taliban officials say they have established a new customs house in the Delaram district of southern Nimruz province in the southwestern part of Afghanistan. The new effort to collect revenue follows joint Afghan-Coalition airstrikes on Taliban narcotics processing labs in the Helmand province last November. U.S-led coalition says such attacks will continue.
A Taliban statement says it will begin collecting a transit tax in the southern Nimruz and southwestern Farah provinces on Jan. 3.
Desperate to finance their insurgency, the Taliban has been using many illegal ways of making money, including kidnapping and extortion, and smuggling drugs, minerals and precious stones, according to Afghan officials.
Local security officials tell Voice of America that the militant group is using the money to purchase weapons and strengthen itself against Afghan security forces.
"They tax the transiting commercial vehicles and finance their insurgency in the southern Helmand and Farah provinces through this money," said Gul Bahar Mujahid, police chief of Farah province.
Officials in neighboring Nimruz province also confirmed to VOA that the Taliban is collecting money from transiting commercial vehicles.
"[The Taliban] has repeatedly engaged in extortion and looting in the route of the Delaram and Khashrwod districts, and we are using military force to prevent their vicious actions," said Khwaja Jelani Abu Bakr, police chief of Nimruz.
However, local travelers told VOA that the Taliban has established their own checkposts on the main highways connecting Farah and Nimruz to other neighboring provinces.
"There is a Taliban checkpost after every Afghan security checkpost, you can see their white-color flag raised over the checkposts. ... They tax commercial cars and trucks according to the sizes of the vehicle," said a local traveler identified only as "Ahmad."
A customs tariff by so-called Afghanistan Islamic Emirates shared on social mediashows a charge of 50,000 Afghanis ($717) to an oil tanker.The Taliban has also provided a local phone number the drivers can call in case of an emergency.
Local residents fear if the government fails to cut the Taliban's financial sources, the militants will expand their insurgency to relatively calmer provinces.
The Taliban in the Nimruz and Farah provinces has threatened to close the transit routes in those provinces if the customs revenue is denied.
Targeting Taliban's revenue streams
Afghan and U.S officials believe that close to 60 percent of the Taliban's financial revenue comes from narcotics smuggling.
Resolute Support Mission Commander Gen. John Nicholson said last November that a new massive campaign by joint Afghan-U.S forces will continuously target the Taliban's financial streams.
"We're hitting the Taliban where it hurts, which is their finances," said Nicholson.
The RSMC commander added that the Taliban has between 400 to 500 drug processing labs in Afghanistan, which he promised to hit.