Building on previous research under XCEPT, this research contributes to a growing body of work to help develop a better understanding of the shift in political and economic power in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

The study combines satellite imagery, in-depth interviews, and geospatial analysis to examine how the Taliban has reshaped Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape, comparing the provinces of Nimroz and Samangan.

Despite their contrasting characteristics, these provinces show several common features under Taliban rule. The research finds a notable shift in the distribution of political power, particularly in the disproportionate number of Pashtuns appointed to the provincial administrations where Pashtuns are otherwise a minority; a high rate of former fighters and Taliban ‘technocrats’ in key positions, centralising power and displacing local elites who dominated during the time of the Afghan republic; and a major reduction in informal taxes and bribes alongside adoption of formal regulations of trade, among others.

The findings suggest that the Taliban approach to the economy is pragmatic. They intervene largely where they can extract the greatest financial benefits without undermining political support.

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