Fields of poppy
A new UN report has confirmed that the financial might of the Afghan Taliban is possibility stronger than ever. The report, released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has confirmed that the area cultivated in Afghanistan for the production of opium increased by 10 percent this year. The total area for opium cultivation increased from 183,000 hectares last year to 201,000 hectares this year amidst a clear weakening of both international and national efforts to curb the drug trade in the country. Opium production itself increased by 43 percent to reach 4,800 tonnes in a year where the weather favoured high crop yields. Combined with rising insecurity and lower levels of commitment from international donors, opium is back on the rise as a major cash crop in Afghanistan. Opium production reached a new peak in 2013 and 2014 as counter-narcotics efforts in the country seem to have completely failed.
Not only has Afghanistan’s inability to curb the drug trade fuelled the Taliban’s war against the Afghan government, the country is also suffering from a severe drug crisis as youth in the war-ravaged country turn to drugs to escape the horrors of everyday life. The failure of 15 years of efforts to curb the production of opium in the country is also clear. Use of force to burn down opium fields has not worked in a country where the economy has never recovered from almost 40 years of constant war. In this context, it is not difficult to see why opium remains the crop of choice for so many farmers in Afghanistan. It is the only crop which guarantees a steady income and is probably one of the few economic sectors which shows growth.
Asif Alam, Gujranwala.