Afghan opium production flourishes

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is spreading to new areas and is flourishing particularly in the north, UN and Afghan officials said, as a top anti-narcotics official linked military commanders, Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists to the trade.

    Poverty drives Afghans to opium farming

    A survey carried out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Afghan government discovered opium poppy cultivation had risen 8% nationwide and decreased dramatically in the south. Still, it was skyrocketing in the north.

    Poppy cultivation in the northeastern province of Badakshan surged by 55%, the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2003 found.
      
    It found the number of provinces planting opium poppies rose from 18 in 1999 to 28 in 2003, out of a total 32. Opium was cultivated for the first time in 31 districts. 
      
    Drugs fund war

    “There are still Taliban remaining and al-Qaeda remaining who are finding safe passages for the drug traffickers”

    Mirwais Yasini
    Director of the Counter Narcotics Department in Afghanistan's National Security Council

    Both the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, battling US and Afghan soldiers in the south of the country, are funding their campaigns by extracting levies from drug dealers seeking safe passage through areas controlled by them, Mirwais Yasini, director of the Counter Narcotics Department in Afghanistan's National Security Council, told Journalists.

    “There are still Taliban remaining and al-Qaida remaining who are finding safe passages for the drug traffickers,” Yasini told a press conference in Kabul.
      
    “Drug trafficking needs instability, and the terrorists are providing them the instability environment and both are funded by the same money. Taliban and al-Qaida are funded heavily by the drug money,” he said.
      
    Still, government troops are also involved in drug trafficking, Yasini said.
      
    “There are good commanders and there are bad commanders. The good commanders are assisting us to eradicate but there are bad commanders who are involved in drugs,” Yasini told AFP on the sidelines. 

    Russia bound
      
    Yasini blamed the poppy boom in Badakshan province on its proximity to Tajikistan.
      
    “Badakshan is neighbouring Tajikistan, and a lot of heroin, morphine is smuggled from Badakshan to the CIS countries, finally to the Russian federation,” he told a press conference.

    “The demand attracted people to supply more and that is general reality that the drug is not our national problem it is an international problem.”

    “Badakshan is neighbouring Tajikistan, and a lot of heroin, morphine is smuggled from Badakshan to the CIS countries, finally to the Russian federation”

    Mirwais Yasini

    Opium production was up 6% and the number of opium farmers had risen to 1.7 million or 7% of Afghanistan's population of about 24 million, according to the survey.

    Opium growing families were making an average 3900 dollars a year, the survey found, against the average GDP per capita of 184 dollars.
     
    Opium smugglers made $1.3 billion in 2003, their income combined with farmers was equal to more than 50% of estimated GDP. 

    SOURCE: AFP


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