Nangarhar province

In the east of the country, Nangarhar is the third most populous province in Afghanistan and shares a long border with Pakistan. The province’s capital is Jalalabad City and its Torkham border crossing is the most important trade route connecting Kabul to Pakistan. Nangarhar has long been beset by insecurity, including assassinations, roadside bombs, and clashes between armed groups. ISKP has had a significant presence in the province since the group first emerged in 2014. According to APW’s sources, the number of ISKP fighters in Nangarhar has reportedly doubled since the Taliban returned to power.[1]

Former NDS officials in Afghanistan previously identified Torkham as one of the main gateways for smuggling illicit weapons under the Republic, including huge quantities of locally made weapons produced in Dara Adamkhel and Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—colloquially referred to as ‘Dara Wale’ weapons in the region.[2] While some Dara Wale-made replicas[3]—modelled after popular Chinese, Russian, Turkish, and US weapons—are extremely well crafted and difficult to distinguish from genuine items, others are poorly made and notorious for their low quality and unreliability. Many locally made pistols are chambered for locally made .30 bore calibre ammunition. These weapons are popular with civilians due to their low cost and widespread availability.

Following the Taliban takeover, the prices of weapons in Nangarhar arms markets initially fell.[4] As the Taliban conducted door-to-door searches of former ANDSF homes and confiscated hundreds of weapons from civilians in Nangarhar, weapon prices began to increase.[5] In one month alone, more than 545 weapons were collected in Jalalabad City. These were displayed to the media and included several different types of US-manufactured weapons.[6]

According to one local source formerly with the Republic, at least 19,500 ANDSF personnel were present in Nangarhar at the time of the collapse, including members of the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Afghan National Police, the NDS, and the border police who had thousands of weapons in their possession.[7] When the Taliban seized former ANDSF depots in the province, many weapons were missing—especially pistols, which could be easily concealed. Beretta pistols were reportedly in particularly high demand and were kept by ANA soldiers; these weapons were later sold or smuggled, or confiscated by Taliban fighters.[8]

In late 2022, researchers interviewed several low-level Taliban fighters who had sold and traded weapons immediately following the collapse. One Taliban fighter from Nangarhar, who was released from Pul-e-Charkhi prison by the Taliban in August 2021, was able to collect military equipment—five Beretta pistols, four AK-pattern assault rifles, one M4, and a Humvee—at various checkpoints in Nangarhar immediately following his release. Within days, he had sold the Beretta pistols for PKR 50,000 (USD 222) and the Kalashnikovs for PKR 70,000 (USD 311) in a border district in Nangarhar.[9] He kept the M4 rifle for himself and transferred the Humvee to the local Taliban district governor.[10]

A member of the Taliban who spent four years in Bagram prison also collected five brand new M4 rifles and immediately sold them for PKR 600,000 (USD 2,660 or roughly USD 532 each) in another border district in Nangarhar.[11] Many of the weapons initially seized by low-level Taliban fighters were quickly sold. Similarly, a group of Taliban fighters seized 90 weapons and handed over 30 weapons to the district governor’s office; the other 60 were reportedly sold to a local weapons dealer.[12]

In another instance, 1,200 local police turned in their weapons to the district governor’s office where they were stored.[13] Larger surrenders reportedly went to senior Taliban officials, while smaller seizures were in some cases kept by local Taliban fighters and later traded or sold due to their poor economic circumstances.[14] The end destination of many of these weapons is unknown; however, significant quantities were reportedly smuggled to Pakistan, where demand and prices are much higher.[15]

Since the chaotic period immediately following the collapse of the Republic, the Taliban have reportedly clamped down on small-scale weapons smuggling and unauthorized transfers. Price data obtained by APW seems to support these claims as weapon prices have risen over time.[16] By collecting price data for a set of benchmark weapons in late 2022 from weapons dealers in Jalalabad City and Khogyani district, APW found that the prices for M4 and M16 rifles had risen to between USD 1,200 and 1,600 in Nangarhar, but these rifles were not widely available in the market.[17] In other parts of the country, prices reached USD 2,400 for a US-manufactured M4.[18] M4s are generally valued at higher prices than M16s, as they were primarily used by Afghan Special Forces.

The prices for AK-pattern assault rifles also initially fell from PKR 170,000 (USD 745) to PKR 50,000 (USD 220)—the lowest price in 20 years according to local sources. AK-pattern assault rifles now go for between USD 450 and 550, although prices vary widely depending on the quality and country of manufacture. In other areas of Afghanistan, AK-pattern assault rifles were sold for up to USD 620.[19]

The prices for Beretta pistols also dropped from PKR 100,000–130,000 (USD 440–570) to PKR 30,000 (USD 130) during the collapse. The pistols now generally go for anywhere between USD 350 and USD 530 depending on the quality, but prices can reach up to USD 700.[20] In general, prices noted were considerably higher in Helmand, where weapons markets are more tightly controlled by the Taliban, than in Nangarhar. More longitudinal work may help to explain price fluctuations by considering a host of factors, including local taxation and supply and demand dynamics.

Regarding night vision and thermal sights, and other highly sought-after accessories supplied to Afghan Special Forces, a Taliban fighter in Nangarhar interviewed by APW said night vision items recovered during the collapse were sold for between USD 500 and USD 1,000. According to the fighter, his commander had declared that the ‘Chinese were very interested in the night vision used by the Americans and would pay 2,500 USD for them’.[21] When asked about the availability of these items in the market, the commander noted that ANDSF units had possessed these items and taken them with them when they were evacuated.[22] Any night vision or thermal sights left behind are likely tightly controlled by the Taliban.

The Taliban engage in routine weapons seizures from smugglers and civilians holding weapons without Taliban authorization (that is, without paying a fee for a permit or licence). Weapon permits are issued on request at the discretion of local Taliban officials. As the Taliban have clamped down on small-scale weapons smuggling, other weapons dealers have used their ties with the Taliban to continue trading. Senior Taliban officials also have the authority to allow or shut down open-air bazaars in the areas under their control.

Key smuggling routes identified by APW in Nangarhar include the official border crossing at Torkham, as well as the much more difficult crossing at Tora Bora. To evade detection for unauthorized transfers, weapons may be transported by pickup truck to the Tora Bora pass. From there, horses and donkeys are used to transport weapons through Zeran in Kurram District to Parachinar, the capital of Kurram District, where there is reportedly a depot for weapons. Weapons are then transported by road to Bara Bazar, also in Khyber District, and on to Dara Adamkhel, Peshawar, and other locations within Pakistan. Smugglers also reportedly use an unofficial border crossing called Pacha Mina, a small town next to Torkham. The Torkham–Peshawar highway, however, provides the most direct and efficient route to other parts of Pakistan.


[1] APW interview with a local security expert, Nangarhar, November 2022.

[2] For some context, see CAR (2022).

[3] Whether such weapons should be referred to as copies or counterfeit, replica, or craft or artisanal weapons remains a discussion point among researchers. The situation is complicated by the fact that the weapons tend to be categorized along with both imitations and ‘originals’ made in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including the whole .30 calibre bore family of weapons.

[4] APW interview with local sources, Nangarhar, November 2022.

[5] See Pajhwok News (2022); RFE Pashto (2022); and HRW (2021).

[6] See Killid Group (2022).

[7] APW interview with a former member of the ANDSF, December 2022.

[8] APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[9] The exact location was withheld. APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[10] APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[11] The exact location was withheld. APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[12] APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[13] APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[14] APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[15] APW interview with local sources, Nangarhar, November 2022.

[16] APW’s reporters note that price data is subject to negotiations between buyer and seller, as well as a host of influential factors—including the increased risk of doing business in major cities, Taliban regulations and taxation, and supply and demand dynamics related to specific weapon types.

[17] This estimate is based on price data gathered by APW in three different locations in Nangarhar, November 2022.

[18] This estimate is based on APW price data obtained from a weapons dealer in Sangin, Helmand, November 2022.

[19] This estimate is based on APW price data obtained from a weapons dealer in Sangin, Helmand, November 2022.

[20] This estimate is based on APW price data obtained from a weapons dealer in Sangin, Helmand, November 2022.

[21] APW interview with a local Taliban source, November 2022.

[22] APW interview with a Taliban commander, November 2022.