Joyce Takes Aim at Taliban’s Illicit Drug Trade

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) offered an amendment to the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would help the United States combat the Taliban’s most significant source of income: its illicit opium trade.

“The Taliban has consistently harmed Americans and undermined American interests,” said Congressman Joyce. “Now they have a greater capacity to do so with billions of dollars-worth of captured U.S. military equipment and a steady stream of income from their illicit opium trade. Any funding stream that supports the Taliban poses a significant threat to the United States. In light of the Taliban’s rapid recapture of Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium, we must act immediately to combat the Taliban’s illegal drug trade and fully comprehend risks posed by the profits of such drugs.”

While the Taliban often deny their involvement in the drug industry, pointing to their brief ban on opium poppy cultivation while in power in 2000, in a May 2021 U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan report, General John Nicholson (Retired) estimated the Taliban derive up to 60% of their annual revenue from illicit narcotics. In an international consensus on the matter, U.N. officials reported that the Taliban likely earned more than $400 million between 2018 and 2019 from the drug trade.

Specifically, Joyce’s amendment would require the Secretary of Defense in coordination with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a report to Congress within one year that includes:

  • A plan to combat the Taliban’s illegal drug trade;
  • The risk to the United States of drugs emanating from such drug trade, including risks posed by the profits of such drugs; and
  • Any actions taken to interdict and prevent such drugs from reaching the United States.

Both U.S. officials and foreign policy experts have warned that terrorism will increase under the Taliban’s new Afghan government. Last year, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the region, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, “maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, likely for protection and training.” In June, the UN Monitoring Team on Afghanistan reported that “large numbers of Al-Qaeda fighters and other foreign extremist elements aligned with the Taliban are located in various parts of Afghanistan,” estimating that the terror group has a presence in 15 of the country’s 34 provinces. Most recently, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated on September 7, “there’s no question that it will be more difficult to identify and engage” terror threats in Afghanistan following the botched U.S. withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover. That same day, the Taliban announced it had appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani, a known terrorist wanted by the FBI for the murder of American citizens and the leader of the Haqqani network, as Interior Minister and allowed others with ties to terror organizations to join the government.  

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