Afghanistan takes pride in its world-class pistachios but interestingly, the country’s ‘green gold’ is also becoming a Taliban favourite.
The sale of pistachios in western Herat province brought the Afghan Taliban $15 million in 2016, said local officials, as quoted by Pajhwok Afghan News.
The Taliban have become the main beneficiary of the pistachio crop in the Kushki Kuhna district of the province, according to Syed Mohammad Chishti Modudi, the administrative chief in the district.
Modudi explained that local warlords and the Taliban have partially destroyed two pistachio forests, spread over an area of 32,000 hectares.
Afghanistan’s ‘pistachio belt’ runs through the provinces of Badakhshan in the northeast, Kunduz in the north, and Herat in the west. Last year, the Taliban raided the pistachio forests in Herat and managed to harvest up to 40% of the crop.
Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, backed by the US, have hardly any control over pistachio forests because the Taliban monitors them and the nearby towns.
“Government forces have no authority over the pistachio forests in Badghis province because they lie in Taliban-controlled areas,” said Hafizullah Benish, an agriculture director.
“Nearly four decades ago, before the near continuous wars that have since ravaged Afghanistan, the country was carpeted with up to 450,000 hectares of pistachio forest,” said Mohammad Aman Amanyar, an agriculture ministry’s forest supervisor.
“Now, after violence and misery, up to 50% of the trees are gone for firewood or are victims of climate change and drought,” the supervisor added.
The Afghan government, over the years, presented restrictive measures that made it an offence to enter pistachio forests in some 11 provinces of the country, but the ban failed to warn the Taliban.
Not only pistachios, the Taliban earns millions from the sale of opium primarily cultivated in Afghanistan.
Nearly 60% of their funding comes from selling opium and its heroin derivative, said US General John Nicholson, commander US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban tax the farmers…they tax the narcotics traffickers…and this is how they derive their revenue,” said the US general.
This article originally appeared on RT.