Afghan opium cul­ti­va­tion up as erad­i­ca­tion col­lapses

Ad­dic­tion lev­els have risen sharply

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

KABUL: Afghanistan saw a 10 per­cent jump in opium cul­ti­va­tion this year be­cause of bumper har­vests, col­laps­ing erad­i­ca­tion ef­forts due to grow­ing inse­cu­rity and de­clin­ing in­ter­na­tional aid to com­bat drugs, the UN said yes­ter­day. Cul­ti­va­tion dropped last year due to drought but it has been on the rise in the past decade, fuelling the Tale­ban in­sur­gency and spurring a grow­ing cri­sis of drug ad­dic­tion de­spite costly US-led counter-nar­cotics pro­grams.

High lev­els of cul­ti­va­tion this year meant the es­ti­mated opium production soared 43 per­cent to 4,800 tons, a UN Of­fice on Drugs and Crime (UN­ODC) report said, un­der­scor­ing a “wor­ry­ing rev­er­sal” in ef­forts to com­bat the scourge of drugs. “The cul­ti­va­tion has in­creased by 10 per­cent this year compared to the same time in 2015 - from 183,000 hectares to 201,000 hectares,” counter-nar­cotics min­is­ter Sala­mat Az­imi told re­porters while re­leas­ing the UN report.

The sta­tis­tics rep­re­sent the third-high­est level of cul­ti­va­tion in Afghanistan in more than two decades - after a record high in 2014 and 2013. Of­fi­cials cited fa­vor­able weather, ris­ing inse­cu­rity and fall­ing in­ter­na­tional donor sup­port as the main rea­sons for the in­crease in cul­ti­va­tion in Afghanistan, the world’s lead­ing pro­ducer of opium. Ninety-three per­cent of the cul­ti­va­tion took place in the south­ern, western and east­ern parts of the coun­try, the report said.

The south­ern restive prov­ince of Hel­mand re­mained the coun­try’s top poppy-cul­ti­vat­ing prov­ince, fol­lowed by Badghis, Kan­da­har, Uruz­gan, Nan­garhar and Farah - all hot­beds of in­sur­gent ac­tiv­ity. “I be­lieve with the ex­ist­ing equip­ment, fa­cil­i­ties and civil­ian task force, we can­not fight the cul­ti­va­tion of poppy in in­se­cure ar­eas,” said Baz Mo­ham­mad Ah­madi, deputy min­is­ter of in­te­rior for counter-nar­cotics. “The chal­lenges of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try took away the op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­stroy poppy farms.”

Seeds of War

Erad­i­ca­tion ef­forts ap­peared to have col­lapsed. A to­tal of 355 hectares of poppy erad­i­ca­tion was car­ried out this year, a 91 per­cent plunge from 2015. “In 2016, farm­ers’ re­sis­tance against poppy erad­i­ca­tion op­er­a­tions was oc­ca­sion­ally ex­pressed through di­rect at­tacks on erad­i­ca­tion teams,” the UN report said. “No erad­i­ca­tion took place in the prov­inces with high lev­els of opium poppy cul­ti­va­tion due to the ex­tremely poor se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in those ar­eas and lo­gis­ti­cal/fi­nan­cial chal­lenges to or­ga­nize the erad­i­ca­tion teams on time.”

Afghanistan saw a drop in opium cul­ti­va­tion last year for the first time since 2009, a UN report said, cit­ing drought as a key rea­son for the de­cline. But that was seen as a tem­po­rary blip. Poppy farm­ers in Afghanistan are of­ten taxed by the Tale­ban, who use the cash to help fund their in­sur­gency against gov­ern­ment and NATO forces. “Most of the con­flicts in Afghanistan are fi­nanced by in­come from poppy. Any­where you see poppy in Afghanistan you see fight­ing there,” said Ah­madi.

In­ter­na­tional donors have splurged bil­lions of dol­lars on counter-nar­cotics ef­forts in Afghanistan over the past decade, in­clud­ing ef­forts to en­cour­age farm­ers to switch to other cash crops such as saf­fron. But those ef­forts have shown lit­tle re­sults. Ad­dic­tion lev­els have also risen sharply - from al­most noth­ing un­der the 1996-2001 Tale­ban regime - giving rise to a new gen­er­a­tion of ad­dicts since the 2001 USled in­va­sion of Afghanistan.

“We ex­plain to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that now is the time to in­crease sup­port for counter-nar­cotics in Afghanistan,” said UN­ODC re­gional chief An­drey Avetisyan. — AFP

In this pho­to­graph taken on April 19, 2016, an Afghan farmer har­vests opium sap from a poppy field in the Cha­parhar dis­trict of Nan­garhar prov­ince. — AFP

Heroin ad­dicts, cov­ered by a sheet, smoke opium at a park in Kabul yes­ter­day.

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