1. The numbers of migrants departing Zaranj in Nimroz for Pakistan en route to Iran has increased exponentially. Reports indicate most are ex employees of the former Republic, some leaving along with their families, highlighting the desperate situation for many in Afghanistan.
2. We have been documenting these departures for some time. As early as June 2021 -some 2 months before the govt collapsed- we pointed to the dramatic rise in the number of migrants & the growing proportion of ANA/ANP amongst them.
3. Since capturing Zaranj the the people smuggling business has been “regulated” by Taliban. Akin to other businesses, regulation has been minimal & often taken the form of restating pre-existing practices. Further evidence of the Taliban’s “small govt” approach to the economy.
4. In the people smuggling business regulation has largely involved restating the number of people who can travel in each vehicle, differentiating between those transporting males & those transporting families, as well as the payments for minors. None of this was new.
5. However, business has also been more intermittent since the Taliban takeover. Departures have been restricted by the Pakistan authorities on the border and more recently by the Taliban, resulting in migrants accumulating in the hotels of Zaranj unable to leave.
6. On 8 October one of these temporary closures came to an end. Due to the backlog of migrants that had built up as many as 1500 pickups left that day, a further 800 on the 9th. It is thought that as many as 60% of those leaving are former employees of the Republic.
7. The exodus led to a backup of cars of stretching 800 metres - 4 cars wide in places - from a checkpoint 4km south of the Customs House on the main road heading south to Charburjak.
8. Now the business has the sanction of the new authorities the route is not as covert as it was in the days of the Republic. Whereas in the past the journey for migrants went from the hotels in the city to Masoomabad via 3 wheel vehicles.
9. From there they boarded pickups & passed through the desert to Charburjak dc paying many checkpoints en route. Once across the river the vehicles took the long desert road to Dak on the Pakistan border where passengers would disembark before boarding another pickup to Iran
10. In Dak the Taliban would collect a nominal fee from each pickup arriving from Zaranj, as well as those departing Dak for the Iranian border - a total of $6.25 for each vehicle (around $0.28 per passenger).
11. It was a circuitous route to Iran-200 km to Dak then another 150 km to the Mashkel mountains-with plenty of bribes to pay, the vast majority to corrupt officials from the Republic. While long & difficult it is easier than risking the more direct route over the Iranian border
12. Now the journey to Charburjak dc is more straight forward. No need to travel to Masoomabad & the desert road to Charburjak. Instead the journey goes via the main road, reducing the travel time & vehicle damage. And there are none of the multiple checkpoints and fees.
13. Now there is just one payment to the Taliban of 1000 Afs per vehicle (about $0.54/passenger) collected on the main highwayand no fee in Dak. As such there are much fewer transaction costs & potentially greater profits for the smuggler, especially now the fee has increased.
14. Positioned on the junction of the two roads heading south from the city, and boxed in by an irrigation ditch, the checkpoint is perfectly situated to capture all those vehicles heading south and ensure everyone pays.
15. It’s hard to see the disadvantages for those involved in people smuggling: costs have gone down & there is greater certainty in their ability to move volume-which is where the real profits lie in the cross border trade of goods be it fuel, minerals, drugs, or even people.

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More from @mansfieldintinc

31 Aug
1. I was trying to avoid any more threads for a while but this story needs much more context and a look beyond the headlines. It represents only a snapshot in time and perhaps a local event: it certainly not the whole picture.
2. 12 days ago the price of fresh opium increased to around $135 per kilogram in the south, a function of market uncertainty due to the Taliban announcement of the intention to ban opium poppy cultivation, but also border closures following their capture of Kabul.
3. However, this was only temporary and markets have now corrected: prices have fallen to between $55 & $80 per kilogram in Helmand depending on quality. On the Iranian border prices are slightly higher, at up to $100/kg for good quality opium.
Read 8 tweets
28 Aug
1. During this really difficult time for Afghanistan & its population, while the west decides how it will engage, it would be helpful if people would be more discerning about what they write, it could draw on misinformation & result in illconceived & counterproductive policies
2. Just cos something has been written don’t make it true. And if it has been written check out what the actual sources say and whether they are credible - just cos it’s a “reputable” org it may have just lifted the figures from somewhere else without checking the veracity.
3. This for example, like so many articles on drugs is littered with facts that ain’t so. It makes claims that if you think about them make no sense at all. For one, the idea that the Taliban collects 10% of the value of the drugs trade (others like USFOR-A claimed 20%).
Read 25 tweets
6 Aug
1. The fall of Ziranj is significant, perhaps less because it is a provincial centre & more it marks the final official border crossing with Iran to fall to Taliban & a major source of revenue to the govt & it’s allies.
2. Official revenue from Ziranj $43.2 million p.a. in duties plus another $50 million in direct taxes. We estimate $176 million p.a. when undeclared goods included. That is as much as $83 mill p.a to share amongst “friends” - part of the glue that held the Republic together?
3. Official trade stats indicate Taliban have control over border crossings with trade worth $3.4 billion p.a, incl. $2 billion p.a. with Iran. Undeclared trade worth significantly more with 1.5 million MT of fuel entering Afghanistan from Iran undeclared. dec.usaid.gov/dec/GetDoc.axd…
Read 8 tweets
5 Aug
1. Our forthcoming work for @L4P_Afghanistan shows that the loss of Kang in Nimroz would deny government affiliated actors just short of $7 million per annum in informal taxes levied on the smuggling of fuel and drugs ariananews.af/kang-district-…
2. There is approx 37 MT of fuel worth $19.2 million p.a. smuggled across the border from Iran at Kang. Transported by tractors, with payments made to private actors & ABP both at the border & as it’s moved by pickups en route to the city of Ziranj, it raises $826,000 in bribes. ImageImageImageImage
3. By far the bigger source of revenue to govt affiliated actors in Kang is the drugs trade. An important entrepôt for smuggling opiates, methamphetamine & cannabis into Iran we estimate govt affiliated actors earn as much as $6.1 million p.a. from the various taxes levied. ImageImageImage
Read 11 tweets
30 Jul
1. Following the last thread I’ve been asked a few times how much
money the Taliban is making from the official border crossings it seized over the last month?
2. Based on our work for @L4P_Afghanistan it is clear that it is less a case of how much money the Taliban has earned & more an issue of how much they have denied the govt & it’s allies?
3. The Taliban has been taxing cross border trade through these crossings for a number of years with checkpoints along the main highway in Farahrud, Delarem, Ghorghory, Muqur and Kunduz.
Read 9 tweets
20 Jul
1. This just don’t pass the smell test. Detailed fieldwork with those harvesting, transporting & trading ephedra & with lab owners & workers shows this - like most businesses in Afghanistan is structured around independent entrepreneurs. foreignpolicy.com/2021/07/19/tal…
2. Ephedrine production is a cottage industry that has merged from the shift from the use of OTC to ephedra. Taxes on both ephedrine & meth are marginal @ a few $/kg, so too are profits @ <$30/kg. Taliban tax? Yes. Control? No. emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/p…
3. Our next report for @L4P_Afghanistan estimates & maps revenues from range of value chains, incl drugs industry (meth & opiates) & shows govt affiliates earn more from drugs than Taliban & Taliban earn 80% of revenue from cross border trade in legal goods.
Read 6 tweets

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