++ Afghan opium still thriving: US report - SouthernWolf.net

Afghan opium still thriving: US report

Posted on Sunday, March 23, 2008 @ 16:39:59 EDT in Drugs
by Southern


Despite seven years of efforts to stamp out the opium crops funding Taliban militants through a flood of heroin, more Afghans than ever are growing the poppies, a US government report said on Friday.

"Narcotics production in Afghanistan hit historic highs in 2007 for the second straight year," said the report released by the State Department.

"Afghanistan's drug trade is undercutting efforts to establish a stable democracy with illicit economic free market in the country."

More than 14 percent of Afghans were involved in poppy production in 2007, up from 12.6 per cent the previous year, according to the 600-page document which evaluates anti-drug efforts country by country.

Last year, 93 per cent of the world's opium came from Afghanistan, where US and other international forces have been fighting to stamp out the crop since the US-led invasion which ousted the Taliban in 2001.

This share, up from 90 per cent in 2006, was grown over 193,000 hectares (nearly 480,00 acres) of Afghan fields - a 17 per cent increase on the previous year, said the report, which cites United Nations figures.

Meanwhile, NATO forces continue to battle a stubborn insurgency in the south of the country by remnants of the Taliban and fighters linked to the Al-Qaida extremist network.

"There is incontrovertible evidence that the Taliban use drug trafficking proceeds to fund insurgent activities," David Johnson, the State Department's top anti-drug enforcer said.

"The counter-narcotics / counter-insurgency nexus is both real and growing."

Favourable weather aided a bumper yield last year, with an opium crop one-third bigger than that of 2006, with an export value of some four billion dollars - more than a third of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.

"The Afghan government must take decisive action against poppy cultivation soon to turn back the drug threat before its further growth and consolidation make it even more difficult to defeat," the annual report said.

He said however that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime predicted a slight dip in poppy crops nationwide this year.

The report meanwhile praised anti-drug efforts by another illegal drug hotspot, Colombia, which "leads the world in coca cultivation and is the source of 90 per cent of the cocaine entering the US," according to Johnson.

"It has made notable progress in combating the drug traffickers and narco-terrorists that only recently posed serious threats," he said.

He expressed concern however at a rise in coca production in Bolivia and Peru. 

Times of India

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