>> The conflict jewels that are helping to bankroll the Taliban. Illegal mining of minerals like this semi-precious Lapis Lazuli is funneling millions of dollars into the hands of insurgents. Reuter's Josh Smith in Kabul explains how it's happened.>> As more and more of Afghanistan has fallen under the influence of insurgent groups, the Taliban have been able to take advantage of their control over certain areas that are very rich in some of Afghanistan's most iconic minerals, including Lapis Lazuli.
From those mines, many of the people who traditionally work them, now have to pay protection money or other forms of taxes to the Taliban to continue working there.>> Authorities banned Lapis mining last year, but the mineral is still being extracted and smuggled out. Activists say local warlords are engaged in a violent struggle over control of the mines, backed by government insiders.
>> Even before these mining areas where controlled by insurgent groups, they were often in the hands of armed militias with rather dubious ties to various power broker inside the government, as well as the local government, according to rights activists who have investigated these mines. That's led to a lot of allegations of corruption as the profits have increasingly gone to corrupt politicians as well as the insurgents.
>> About $200 million worth of Lapis have been extracted since 2014. Activists say, today, nearly half the profits are going to the Taliban and fueling violence.>> Everyone's got an interest being a little conflict. Everyone's got an interest in the government being essentially a hollow shell.>> Activists have called on the government to take more measures to stop the trade, but others warn that cracking down will be tough as long as the mines are under Taliban control.