From poppy to heroin: Tale­ban mov­ing into drug pro­duc­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KABUL: The Tale­ban-which banned poppy cul­ti­va­tion when it ruled Afghanistan-now ap­pears to wield sig­nif­i­cant con­trol over the war-torn coun­try’s heroin pro­duc­tion line, pro­vid­ing in­sur­gents with bil­lions of dol­lars, of­fi­cials have told AFP. In 2016 Afghanistan, which pro­duces 80 per­cent of the world’s opium, made around 4,800 tons of the drug bring­ing in rev­enues of three bil­lion dol­lars, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

The Tale­ban has long taxed poppy-grow­ing farm­ers to fund their years-long in­sur­gency, but Western of­fi­cials are con­cerned it is now run­ning its own fac­to­ries, re­fin­ing the lu­cra­tive crop into mor­phine and heroin for ex­port­ing abroad. “I pretty firmly feel they are pro­cess­ing all the har­vest,” Wil­liam Brown­field, US As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for Drugs and Law En­force­ment told re­porters in the Afghan cap­i­tal Kabul re­cently.

“Ev­ery­thing they har­vest is duly pro­cessed in­side the coun­try. They re­ceive more rev­enues if they process it be­fore it has left the coun­try. “Ob­vi­ously we are deal­ing with very loose fig­ures, but drug traf­fick­ing amounts to bil­lions of dol­lars ev­ery year from which the Tale­ban is tak­ing a sub­stan­tial per­cent­age,” he added. Pop­pies, which are cheap and easy to grow, make up half of Afghanistan’s en­tire agri­cul­tural out­put.

Farm­ers are paid about $163 for a kilo of the black sap-the raw opium that oozes out of poppy seed pods when they are slit with a knife. Once it is re­fined into heroin, the Tale­ban sells it in re­gional mar­kets for be­tween $2,300 and $3,500 a kilo. By the time it reaches Europe it whole­sales for $45,000, ac­cord­ing to a Western ex­pert who is ad­vis­ing Afghan anti-nar­cotics forces and asked not to be named. He said an in­crease in seizures of chem­i­cals re­quired to turn opium into mor­phine, the first step be­fore it be­comes heroin, such as acid an­hy­dride, points to an es­ca­la­tion in Tale­ban drug ac­tiv­ity.

Sixty-six tons of the chem­i­cals were seized in all of 2016, while 50 tons were im­pounded in just the first six months of this year, the ex­pert said. In early July, he said, 15 tons were con­fis­cated in the west of Afghanistan near the bor­der with Iran, the start of a pop­u­lar drug route to Europe through Tur­key.

‘Hel­mand is all about drugs’

Seizures of mor­phine have also in­creased. Fifty­seven tons were dis­cov­ered in the first half of 2017 com­pared to 43 tons for the whole of 2016, added the ex­pert, who said that only about 10 per­cent of what is pro­duced is ac­tu­ally dis­cov­ered. “It’s easy to build a rudi­men­tary lab­o­ra­tory-walls of cob, a thatched roof-and when the op­er­a­tion is fin­ished it is evac­u­ated,” the source told AFP. Afghanistan’s in­te­rior min­istry said that be­tween January and June, 46 clan­des­tine drug fac­to­ries were closed down by anti-nar­cotics of­fi­cers com­pared with 16 in the first half of last year.


HEMLAND: This file photo taken on April 11, 2017 shows an Afghan farmer har­vest­ing opium sap from a poppy field in the Gereshk dis­trict.

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