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FLASH ALERT: HIGH RISK OF DISPLACED AFGHAN WORKERS LEADING TO ECONOMIC TURMOIL IN AFGHANISTAN

FLASH ALERT: HIGH RISK OF ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS AND RISING UNEMPLOYMENT OF AFGHAN PEOPLE AS A RESULT OF US ARMED FORCES LEAVING THE COUNTRY. FAILURE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO RENDER SUFFICIENT AID WILL LIKELY RESTRICT THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT, WHICH IS HIGHLY LIKELY TO FACILITATE THE TALIBAN’S RESURGENCE AND FUEL THE ILLICIT DRUG TRADE AND ILLEGAL MINERAL MINING.


Thursday, May 6, 2021 | CTG Illicit Finance & Economic Threats Team


The US Exit from Afghanistan Threatens a Resurgence of the Taliban[1]


The Counterterrorism Group’s Illicit Finance and Economic Threats Team is issuing a FLASH ALERT regarding the deteriorating prospects for legitimate employment that job seekers in Afghanistan currently face. With the withdrawal of the US military currently underway, many workers in Afghanistan have begun to suffer as a result of the diminished American presence. Tens of thousands of Afghans have gained employment since the US occupancy in 2001.[2] Thousands of Afghan workers reliant on the presence of the US military have lost their jobs.[3] Many Afghan workers have slim prospects for being able to find consistent work that would allow them to support themselves and their families in a capacity that is similar to what the US military provided. As unemployment is likely to rise, financial and economic instability has a HIGH PROBABILITY of attracting the attention of the Taliban. The Taliban is highly likely to increase efforts to recruit older workers with fewer job prospects and younger, impressionable job-seekers who are eager to improve their socio-economic conditions.


Afghanistan has been referred to as a narco superpower.[4] This designation is due to the country’s involvement in the production and trafficking of narcotics such as opium. More than 90% of the global heroin supply comes from opium harvested in Afghanistan.[5] Displaced workers in dire economic conditions may contribute to the expansion of illicit drug trafficking to earn a living. The displaced workers are highly likely to be tempted to work on behalf of the Taliban, who generated $416 million USD in revenue from the illicit drug trade by the end of their financial year in 2020.[6] This has global implications that have a HIGH PROBABILITY of leading to increased drug-related crimes and drug addictions in many countries.


Besides the Taliban's involvement in drug trafficking, they are also known for their role in illegal mineral mining. In 2020, the Taliban generated $464 million USD from mining.[7] The generated revenue may influence unemployed individuals to partake in this lucrative enterprise to support themselves and their families. The Taliban will likely seek to increase extraction and mining operations to enhance their power and influence of the illegal mining market. With an increase in mining and extraction of valuable minerals such as gold, iron, copper, and ore,[8] the Taliban has a HIGH PROBABILITY of stealing considerable amounts of revenue that would otherwise go to the Afghan government. The loss in revenue for the government is highly likely to impair its ability to support its economically marginalized citizens. Moreover, this could lead to increased instability in the region.


The Taliban is currently estimated to control 52% of the territory in Afghanistan.[9] When the Taliban wielded a greater amount of power, they implemented policies that restricted the socio-economic mobility of women. Women were not allowed to pursue employment opportunities and they were denied access to education. The resurgence of the Taliban threatens reforms that were implemented with the US occupancy. Today, women can pursue entrepreneurship as business owners and professional positions such as doctors, judges, and police officers.[10] The Taliban would likely roll back reforms and stifle prospects of gender equality and economic participation that many Afghan women are seeking to take part in.


Recent reports have indicated that Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces are increasing as the US nears its exit from Afghanistan.[11] US President Biden has announced that the US will withdraw all troops by September 11, 2021. This date is symbolic and was chosen because it represents the twentieth anniversary of the terror attack in the US on September 11, 2001. The Taliban’s attacks are significant because they demonstrate the Taliban's willingness to use violence as a way to restore their view of how Afghanistan should look demographically, culturally, and economically. Increased efforts to use violence coupled with the Taliban’s continual ties with Al-Qaeda indicates a HIGH PROBABILITY that civilians would have their employment prospects further threatened due to restrictive interpretations of Islamic law.


A reduction in foreign military presence and insufficient international developmental aid are highly likely to further deteriorate living conditions, leading to increased poverty. At the Geneva Conference of Afghanistan, held in November 2020, pledges of foreign aid to Afghanistan were considerably reduced from previous years.[12] Economic deprivation from a lack of foreign aid is compounded by the Taliban’s imposition of exploitative taxes on civilians. The imposed taxation and lack of foreign aid create an even greater threat for increased poverty and suffering. Afghans fortunate enough to have employment will face increased economic hardships by being forced to finance the Taliban's operations.


CONCLUSION


The Counterterrorism Group contends that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that the withdrawal of the US military will lead to increased economic hardships for Afghan people. The lack of US presence has a HIGH PROBABILITY of restrengthening the Taliban and fueling increased economic distress for civilians. There is a HIGH PROBABILITY that reductions in international aid will facilitate greater economic suffering for the Afghan people. A lack of legitimate employment prospects for civilians has a MEDIUM-HIGH PROBABILITY of increasing the Taliban’s recruitment, illicit mineral mining practices, and production of narcotics.


For more detailed information, such as the completion of a detailed Person of Interest report on any of the individuals involved, a lessons learned report summarizing how security can be improved for the future, or of other information that CTG has gathered, please contact us.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a unit of the global risk consulting and security firm Paladin 7. CTG proactively searches for and analyzes the threat of terrorism that comes from International Terrorist Organizations, Domestic Terrorist Organizations, and Individuals determined to inflict terror upon societies, organizations, and individuals. Our international and national security professionals set up protective measures to detect, deter, and prevent, discourage, and dissuade any terrorist organization or individual from attacking organizations and individuals. We work to protect our clients from any terrorist threat or attack. We also work proactively with the proper authorities to find those in terrorist organizations and individuals who will cause harm and assist in bringing them to justice and mitigating the threat long-term.

[1]Afghanistan’s Flag” by Gordon Johnson, licensed under Pixabay

[2] Afghanistan Reels From Economic Fallout Of International Troop Withdrawal, Gandhara, May 2021, https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-us-nato-withdrawal-economic-fallout/31232098.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] Where’s the U.S. Strategy for Counternarcotics in Afghanistan?, Law Fare, November 2020, https://www.lawfareblog.com/wheres-us-strategy-counternarcotics-afghanistan

[5] 'Eradication has been close to zero' in the world's biggest producer of heroin, Business Insider, October 2016, https://www.businessinsider.com/opium-and-heroin-production-in-afghanistan-has-increased-2016-10

[6] Exclusive: Taliban's Expanding 'Financial Power' Could Make It 'Impervious' To Pressure, Confidential Report Warns, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, September 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/exclusive-taliban-s-expanding-financial-power-could-make-it-impervious-to-pressure-secret-nato-report-warns/30842570.html

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Taliban, at Least, Are Striking Gold in Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, September 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/09/22/taliban-afghanistan-mining-peace-talks/

[9] Govt, Taliban make exaggerated claims of territory they control, Pajhwok, February 2021, https://pajhwok.com/2021/02/12/govt-taliban-make-exaggerated-claims-of-territory-they-control/

[10]Afghanistan: Women’s rights must not be compromised in peace process, Amnesty, November 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/afghanistan-womens-rights-must-not-be-compromised-in-peace-process/

[11] Taliban captures district in northern Afghanistan; attacks increasing as US pulls out, France24, May 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/asia-pacific/20210505-taliban-captures-district-in-northern-afghanistan-attacks-increasing-as-us-pulls-out

[12] Afghanistan Development Update, World Bank Group, April 2021, https://thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/e406b6f24c2b7fdeb93b56c3116ed8f1-0310012021/original/Afghanistan-Development-Update-FINAL.pdf

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