This NYT story about the continued looting of Afghanistan is literally titled, “An Afghan Mystery: Why are Large Shipments of Gold Leaving the Country?“. I appreciate that they’re not jumping to conclusions, but there’s clearly a dominant hypothesis here.
Gold is flowing into the country as untraceable payment for heroin and weapons export. Large amounts of gold circulate in the underground economy, for the same reason. It also has the advantage of being easy to deposit in Dubai banks, with no questions asked, to provide a secure bank account located far away from the political risks of keeping capital in Afghanistan. Gold is being shipped out of the country in order to convert the illicit cash from illegal activities into fully recognized cash sitting in a First World Bank. Aside from drug lords, this is also how Afghan officialdom is laundering their looting of the country’s government and institutions.
The tone of mystery and puzzlement in the Times is bizarre. Shortage of massive secret gold mines coming online in Taliban-held territory, there’s really no other plausible way to describe this pattern.