Friday, March 16, 2007

Afghan opium crop booms

GANDAMAK, Afghanistan -- On a dirt road leading into Afghanistan's White Mountains, there is a sign bearing American and Afghan flags that looks eerily out of place.

"This project has been undertaken by the Islamic Government of Afghanistan with the financial assistance of the people of the United States of America," it reads. The sign, which marks a defunct crop-substitution scheme, sits squarely in a field of freshly seeded Afghan poppies, whose deadly buds produce 90 percent of the world's high-grade heroin.

Afghanistan is about to produce another bumper crop of opium, and narcotics specialists predict another major increase over last year's 60 percent rise in poppy cultivation. The number of Afghans involved in the illicit trade, either as farmers or dealers, rose last year from 2 million to nearly 3 million people, according to State Department figures released this month.

That means that more than 12 percent of the population has a hand in drug production or trafficking at some level.

Government officials and tribal leaders have tried to oppose the burgeoning drug trade and are growing increasingly frustrated.

"I have been preaching against the poppy for years," said Malik Musafir Poparzai, a tribal leader and village headman. "My people listened last year, but everyone in nearby villages grew poppies and made money and my people now insist they need the money too."

Entire article here.

No comments:

Post a Comment