The Taliban have promised, by taking power, to improve the Afghan economy, but without access to international aid and reserves held abroad, the future of the country – one of the poorest in the world – promises to be complex.

Some countries froze their support on Monday. And, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday it was suspending aid to Kabul due to uncertainty surrounding the status of the country’s leaders after the Taliban took control of the country.

“Afghanistan is cruelly dependent on foreign aid,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an Afghanistan specialist at the Brookings Institution, noting that the amount of this aid is at least “ten times higher” than the income of the Taliban.

In 2020, aid flows accounted for 42.9% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product, which amounted to US $ 19.81 billion, according to World Bank data. The Taliban’s current income is estimated at between $ 300 million and more than $ 1.5 billion per year, according to a UN report published in May 2020.

Opium and taxes

The Taliban mainly derive their income from criminal activities, such as poppy cultivation (from which opium is obtained, then heroin) and therefore from drug trafficking, extortion of local businesses and kidnappings for ransom. “Afghanistan will no longer be a country of opium cultivation”, however assured Tuesday the spokesman of the Taliban.

While the economic situation has deteriorated further with the pandemic, the Taliban themselves have recognized that the improvement of the economy could not be done without help from abroad.

The Taliban only have access to 0.1% or 0.2% of Afghanistan’s total reserves, Afghan Central Bank (DAB) President Ajmal Ahmady, who has left the country, said on Wednesday, assuring that those – ci “have never been in danger”. Assets, including cash and gold, are held, among other things, in accounts of the US Central Bank.

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Good posture?

The Taliban seem to enjoy a less icy international reception than when they established their draconian regime of 1996-2001. Russia, China and Turkey have already welcomed the insurgents’ first public statements. However, many donor countries, starting with the United States, remain on their guard.

Afghans rely on remittances sent by family members living abroad. But Western Union announced the suspension since Monday of transfers. According to the World Bank, these transfers amounted to nearly 789 million dollars last year.

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