The Taliban now controls the Afghan economy. Here’s what that means.


Taliban forces patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021. Photo via a Reuters stringer.

I joined the war in Afghanistan in its seventeenth year as the Treasury Department’s financial attaché at the US embassy in Kabul, landing at Hamid Karzai International Airport in August 2018 with a sense of purpose and mission—albeit tempered by years of policy whiplash and myopia. Having spent years working on illicit finance issues, Afghanistan sadly presented an endless priority list of major threats to tackle: terrorism financing, money laundering, economic sanctions evasion, narco-trafficking, and corruption. 

The Afghan economy I encountered was in shambles from forty years of war, propped up mostly by international donors who provided 75 percent of the government’s budget and the heroin trade. According to the World Bank, the illicit…

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