US

Watchdog: Afghanistan's lapis lazuli is a 'conflict mineral'

  • In this March 28, 2016 photo, lapis lazuli is seen for sale inside a shop in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. An international anti-corruption watchdog says Afghanistan's war is being fueled by the country's mining sector, with the Taliban earning up to $20 million a year from illegal mining of lapis lazuli. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

    In this March 28, 2016 photo, lapis lazuli is seen for sale inside a shop in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. An international anti-corruption watchdog says Afghanistan's war is being fueled by the country's mining sector, with the Taliban earning up to $20 million a year from illegal mining of lapis lazuli. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 28, 2016 photo, an employee polishes lapis lazuli in a factory in Kabul, Afghanistan. An international anti-corruption watchdog says Afghanistan's war is being fueled by the country's mining sector, with the Taliban earning up to $20 million a year from illegal mining of lapis lazuli. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

    In this March 28, 2016 photo, an employee polishes lapis lazuli in a factory in Kabul, Afghanistan. An international anti-corruption watchdog says Afghanistan's war is being fueled by the country's mining sector, with the Taliban earning up to $20 million a year from illegal mining of lapis lazuli. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 28, 2016 photo, an Afghan man works at a lapis lazuli factory in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. An international anti-corruption watchdog says Afghanistan's war is being fueled by the country's mining sector, with the Taliban earning up to $20 million a year from illegal mining of lapis lazuli. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

    In this March 28, 2016 photo, an Afghan man works at a lapis lazuli factory in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. An international anti-corruption watchdog says Afghanistan's war is being fueled by the country's mining sector, with the Taliban earning up to $20 million a year from illegal mining of lapis lazuli. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)  (The Associated Press)

An international anti-corruption watchdog says Afghanistan's war is being fueled by the country's mining sector, with armed groups — including the Taliban — earning $20 million from illegal mining of lapis lazuli.

A report by Global Witness released on Monday says that lapis lazuli, a blue stone almost unique to Afghanistan, should be classified as a "conflict mineral."

It says the northern Badakhshan province where lapis lazuli is concentrated has been "deeply destabilized" by violent competition for control of the mines between local strongmen, law makers and the Taliban.

Badakhshan is a microcosm of what is happening across Afghanistan, with mining being the Taliban's second biggest source of income, after drugs.

The Taliban insurgency is in its 15th year.

Afghanistan's mineral assets are believed to be worth billions of dollars.