Afghan Poppy Production Grew To Record In '07

March 1st, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Afghan Poppy Production Grew To Record In '07

Washington Times
March 1, 2008
Pg. 3
By Jerry Seper, Washington Times
Narcotics production in Afghanistan hit historic highs in 2007 for the second straight year, providing revenue and arms to the Taliban and "undercutting" efforts to establish a stable democracy in that country, the State Department said yesterday.
The department, in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, said the Afghan government "must take decisive action" against poppy cultivation and do so soon to turn back the drug threat before its further growth and consolidation make it even tougher to defeat.
"The narcotics trade has strong links with the anti-government insurgency, most commonly associated with the Taliban," the report said. "Narcotics traffickers provide revenue and arms to the Taliban, while the Taliban provides protection to growers and traffickers and keeps the government from interfering with their activities."
The report said that during 2007, Afghanistan strengthened its position as the world's largest heroin producing and trafficking country, with 93 percent of the world's cultivation. It said opium poppy cultivation increased by 17 percent last year.
While terrorist violence such as roadside bombs, suicide bombings and attacks on police rose across the country during 2007, the report said the overall Afghan economy continued its brisk growth rate of more than 10 percent annually over the last five years.
But while improvements to Afghanistan's infrastructure since 2002 have created more economic alternatives and enhanced the Afghan government's ability to combat drug trafficking in some parts of the country, increased insecurity in Afghanistan's south, where most poppies are grown, hampered that strategy, it said.
"Narcotics traffickers also exploited government weakness and corruption," the report said.
According to the report, poppy production soared in provinces where the Taliban is most active. Five relatively higher-income, agriculturally rich provinces along the Pakistan border accounted for 70 percent of Afghanistan's 2007 poppy production. It said 14.3 percent of Afghans were involved in poppy cultivation in 2007, up from 12.6 percent in 2006.
During 2007, Afghan President Hamid Karzai considered a limited aerial-spray program against the opium poppy, but ultimately declined. The report said eradication efforts, though stronger in 2007 than 2006, failed to keep pace with expanded poppy cultivation.
The report also said narcotics law enforcement was hampered by corruption and incompetence within the justice system as well as the absence of governance in large sections of the country. No major drug traffickers have been arrested and convicted in Afghanistan since 2006.
"Narcotics-related corruption is particularly pervasive at the provincial and district levels of government," the report said. "Corrupt practices range from facilitating drug activities to benefiting from revenue streams that the drug trade produces."
In January 2006, the Afghan government inaugurated a national strategy calling for coordinated action against poppy cultivation, but did not implement it effectively. The report said Habibullah Qaderi, minister of counternarcotics, could not influence other government agencies and resigned in July.
"The delay in appointing a successor struck some observers as indicative of the Afghan government's lack of commitment to the fight against narcotics," the report said.

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