Record Opium Crop In Afghanistan Adds To Security Concerns - Printable Version

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Record Opium Crop In Afghanistan Adds To Security Concerns - waxzy - 08-23-2006

This demonstrates the common confusion journalists and the public have between the apparent changes of 'control' in an opium supply area and the lack of linear or 'logical' supply increase or decrease to our flooded Western democracies.

However, don't believe the hype they sell one bit. Even the media are running out of excuses as to why opium crop levels rarely change despite the apparent dominent control mechanisms in place at the time. The CIA and Mi6 are in perhaps in overall control of wholesale and thus street-level opiate price structuring.

Quote:Record opium crop in Afghanistan adds to security concerns

Fisnik Abrashi
Associated Press
August 20, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan – Opium cultivation in Afghanistan has hit record levels – up by more than 40 percent from 2005 – despite hundreds of millions in counternarcotics money, Western officials told the Associated Press.

The increase could have serious repercussions for an already grave security situation, with drug lords joining the Taliban-led fight against Afghan and international forces.

A Western anti-narcotics official in Kabul said about 370,650 acres of opium poppy was cultivated this season – up from 257,000 acres in 2005 – citing their preliminary crop projections. The previous record was 323,700 acres in 2004, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

"It is a significant increase from last year … unfortunately, it is a record year," said a senior U.S. government official based in Kabul, who like the other Western officials would speak only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive topic.

Final figures, and an estimate of the yield of opium resin from the poppies, will be clear only when the U.N. agency completes its assessment of the crop, based on satellite imagery and ground surveys. Its report is due in September.

The U.N. reported last year that Afghanistan produced an estimated 4,500 tons of opium – enough to make 450 tons of heroin – nearly 90 percent of world supply.

This year's preliminary findings indicate a failure in attempts to eradicate poppy cultivation and continuing corruption among provincial officials and police – problems acknowledged by President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai told Fortune magazine in a recent interview that "lots of people" in his administration profited from the narcotics trade and that he had underestimated the difficulty of eradicating opium production.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that opium accounted for 52 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product in 2005.

"Now what they have is a narco-economy. If they do not get corruption sorted they can slip into being a narco-state," the U.S. official warned.

Opium cultivation has surged since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. The former regime enforced an effective ban on poppy growing by threatening to jail farmers – virtually eradicating the crop in 2000.

But Afghan and Western counternarcotics officials say Taliban-led militants are now implicated in the drug trade, encouraging poppy cultivation and using the proceeds to help fund their insurgency.

"(That) kind of revenue from that kind of crop aids and abets the enemy," Chief Master Sgt. Curtis L. Brownhill, a senior adviser to the head of the U.S. Central Command, said during a recent visit to Afghanistan. "They count on having that sort of resource and money."

Afghanistan has seen its deadliest bout of fighting this year since U.S.-backed forces toppled the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden. Officials believe the insurgency, most vicious in the south – Afghanistan's main poppy belt – includes die-hard Taliban, warlords and drug lords and smugglers.

Fear of fanning the insurgency has constrained efforts to destroy the poppy crops of impoverished farmers – particularly in Helmand, where the area being cultivated for poppies has increased most sharply. The province now accounts for more than 40 percent of the poppy cultivation nationwide.

"We know that if we start eradicating the whole surface of poppy cultivation in Helmand, we will increase the activity of the insurgency and increase the number of insurgents," said Tom Koenigs, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan.

He said the international community needs to provide alternative livelihoods for farmers, but warned against expecting quick results.

"The problem has increased, and the remedy has to adjust," he told reporters recently.