CrypTaliban: why the Afghanistan Withdrawal is (moderately) Good News for Crypto


While the above picture is satire, what deserves comment is the fact that it is entirely believable. Those who have interacted with FinTech and challenger banks that offer some form of crypto holdings that you actually own will know that there is perhaps only one jurisdiction that financial projects are more wary of providing services to than the USofA, where the Securities and Exchange Commission puts a wet towel over investing crypto derivatives and the Internal Revenue Service levies income tax on US' citizens globally to fund the wars of the current world hegemon. That jurisdiction, with the exception of North Korea, where there is simply no western banking penetration to speak of, is Afghanistan.

The reason for such caution was obvious: USA's three letter agencies have two clubs that can be used to bash absolutely everything and justify literally any legislation, warrant, action or ban and those are the allegations of child abuse and terrorism. While BTC remains a fairly transparent, though pseudonymous payment system, money could be easily laundered through various crypto projects such as Monero and potentially anyone would be able to finance any organisation they choose (I know, scandalous that people should be able to do what they want with their money, right!?). While this is in no way prevented by stopping ordinary Afghans from accessing the crypto market it made perfect sense for crypto projects that wanted to remain on good terms with the regulator to be pussy-footed when it came to providing services to that country.

So what does the Taliban takeover (seemingly concluded, though by no means signalling an end to violence in the country and probably not internationally recognised any time soon) spell for the crypto situation in Afghanistan? Depends on where you are standing. The US is likely not going to lessen its grip on the money going in and out of the country, so crypto projects that do not want to upset the US will still give Afghanistan a wide berth. While we know that other militant Islamic groups such as the Hamas or ISIL have received funds in bitcoin, I was unable to verify this is true for the Taliban. After taking over the country, the Muslim partisans will face new challenges, such as managing banking. This can prove challenging without access to the SWIFT banking system which the US would be at liberty to suspend or withdraw permanently from the Taliban's reach. The instability in the country has of course extended to the banks and while it is unclear whether the thumbnail for this blog entry shows a simple bank run or a full on banking collapse, it is clear that ordinary Afghans have also already learned the precariousness of centralisation, banking and fiat money.

Taking all the above into consideration, would we really be shocked to hear the Taliban are experimenting with crypto? The only unrealistic event would be for the Taliban to seek foreign investment, since outside intervention is precisely the thing they have been fighting for so many years. I wish all the people of Afghanistan a development for the better and I remain confident that popular crypto adoption would provide the much needed functionality.




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