UNITED NATIONS- The Taliban's reliance on extortion and kidnappings, along with narcotics and illegal mining operations, is transforming it from a group driven by religious ideology into a criminal enterprise hungry for profit, U.N. sanctions monitors said in a new report.
The latest annual report by the U.N. Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team on the Taliban was distributed to reporters, a day before Afghans vote in a run-off presidential election.
"In addition to voluntary or forced donations from Afghan businesses outside the country as well as voluntary donations motivated by religious or ideological convictions, the Taliban have established a fairly sophisticated system to generate resources inside the country," the report said.
"Increasingly Taliban finances also rely on abductions of wealthy businessmen for ransom."
The report said executing civilians and aid workers helps the Taliban reassert their power, block security improvements and prevent economic development 13 years after it was ousted from power by a U.S. invasion.
"However, these activities increasingly change the character of parts of the movement from a group based on religiously couched ideology to a coalition of increasingly criminalized networks, guided by the profit motive," the monitors said.
In Kandahar, the Taliban raise $7 million to $8 million a month from narcotics, extortion and mining, the report said.
Another lucrative Taliban business is illegal marble mining, which the monitors said is the second major revenue source.
Most of the illegal mines are near the Pakistani border, enabling the illegal miners to quickly smuggle the marble across the frontier and move it onto the international market.
"The Team's preliminary assessment is that this Taliban revenue stream is significantly larger than $10 million a year," the monitoring team said about marble mining.