The Opium Capital

Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations in the world; at the same time it is the biggest producer of opium. The greatest post-conflict problem faced by Afghanistan is the dramatic and alarming growth of poppy cultivation, especially after the fall of Taliban. After the fall of Taliban, the country went into complete chaos and for the first two years of the newly formed temporary government, lead by Hamid Karzai, was only focusing on the security of the country. The government didn’t pay much attention to issues like education, roads, and especially the drug trafficking. This boom in the drug trafficking made the poppy cultivation an important part of the country’s economy. Today, about 40 per cent of the country’s economy is dependent upon the poppy cultivation. There is a decent explanation for why the drug trafficking is becoming an important part of the country’s revenue? The country is mostly dry and cultivation has become almost impossible in some parts of Afghanistan except, poppy cultivation. In the south of Afghanistan, poppy can be cultivated twice a year and it requires very little water compare to growing potatoes, apples, apricots, or other fruits which can only be grown once a year. Now in such a situation the government cannot do much to stop the poppy cultivation because there is no substitute for poppy cultivation that the government can come up with. The NATO forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA) are going after the small farmers; in this process the only person that is hurt is the farmer. The drug trafficker is not harmed because there are other farmers who will supply opium. Poppy cultivation has become the main source of income for a lot people in the south of Afghanistan, removing this income means starving thousands of families.

The drug traffickers in Afghanistan are very strong people; some are part of Karzai’s administration, some are part of the new parliament, some are part of ANA, and some are influential political people in south of Afghanistan. South of Afghanistan is majority Pashtun populated, which makes them drug lords of the country. Pashtuns of the southern Afghanistan play a very important role in drug trafficking. They control the local politics and some are part of the security in the south, which makes it very easy for them to transport and cultivate poppy.

Helmand, south of Kandahar, is the capital of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. The majority population is again Pashtuns in this province and one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. The annual revenue of the country that comes from poppy cultivation is about $2.8 billion dollars. The funds by the international community have gone up to fight the drug trafficking; it hasn’t help any bit except the poppy cultivation has grown more. Drug trafficking is most of the time directly designated to Pashtuns of the south or sometimes to all Pashtuns, especially inside the parliament, and it turns into family disputes.

The Taliban’s regime played a key role in the increase in drug trafficking. The only and main source of income for the Taliban government was through poppy cultivation. In the beginning of their regime, the Taliban were very relaxed because almost all of them were involved in drug trafficking. But later they banned growing poppies after the pressure from the United Nations, United States and some European countries. The drug trafficking was banned for the common man of Afghanistan but the government never stopped growing poppies because it was their only source of income. This way the Taliban government actually benefited from this decision. They made their income by taxing poppy growers in different parts of Afghanistan. “This is a windfall for anti-government forces, further evidence of the dangerous link between opium and insurgency,” said Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime .

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