Fri, May 25, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Talcum powder purchases fund extremism, study says

UNWITTING ACCOMPLICES:Over a third of the US’ talc imports are from Afghanistan, where IS controls major mines and is vying with the Taliban for control of more

The Guardian

The Islamic State (IS) group and the Taliban are engaged in a battle over control of mines in Afghanistan that supply much of the talcum used by EU and US consumers.

The mineral, used in everything from baby powder and cosmetics to paint and car parts, is mined in areas of eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban and IS are vying for supremacy.

Global Witness in a report has exposed the struggle to control the extraction of talc and other minerals, such as chromite.

While talc lacks the imaginative allure of blood diamonds, it is nonetheless a “blood mineral,” Global Witness campaign director Nick Donovan said.

“This report shows the insidious way in which insurgents have become involved in talc mining and the threat of groups like ISIS becoming more involved,” Donovan said, using another acronym for IS.

While the Taliban’s involvement in talc mining is now well established, the move by the Afghan branch of IS into mining the mineral appeared to follow a pattern whereby the group attempts to seize resources as a way of funding its efforts, he said, adding that the trend has been particularly marked in Iraq and Syria, where the group has moved into crude oil refining.

IS now controls large talc, marble and chromite mines in eastern Afghanistan, particularly around their stronghold in Achin District, the same area where the US military in April last year dropped the “mother of all bombs” against IS-held caves, the report said.

Significant mining has taken place under IS since they took control, several sources interviewed for the report said, adding that the group has fought major battles with the Taliban over neighboring districts with even richer deposits.

A former security source said they believe IS had been involved in trying to construct a road to Pakistan to export minerals from areas controlled by the group.

“Given [IS’] track record of exploiting natural resources in Iraq and Syria, this should be a wake-up call for both the Afghan government and the [US President Donald] Trump administration,” Donovan said.

“They must strengthen control over the trade in places like Nangarhar, but just as importantly, put in place desperately needed transparency and oversight reforms so that legitimate mining has a chance to provide a viable alternative,” he added.

The investigation findings follow research suggesting that the Taliban is making millions annually from talc as part of the estimated US$300 million a year they rake in from minerals across Afghanistan.

Nearly all of Afghanistan’s talc is exported to Pakistan, which in turn exports more of it to the US than to any other nation, the report said.

Pakistan provides more than a third of US imports of talc, with EU nations also major buyers, it added.

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