The Taliban became infamous on 9/11, however the ensuing war in Afghanistan has brought to light not only their form of government and abuses but also their drug trafficking. While the Taliban is notorious for many things, the opium produced in the country is one of the main sources of income for the government and its activities. Even after the U.S. and NATO forces established a presence in the country the Taliban still has a strong hand in the drug trade and how it impacts Afghanistan and the rest of the world.
Production and trafficking of opium has been ongoing since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. Afghanistan has been fueling drug use in neighboring countries while encouraging serious addiction problems in the country. The Council on Foreign Relations posted this article which focused on Afghanistan’s role in Iran’s drug problem and what some people describe as the world’s worst heroin problem. According to the article, drug use and smuggling has strained Iran’s police forces, prisons, and economy. An estimated 89% of the world’s opium production was coming from Afghanistan in 2005. As much as 40% of the opium found its way through Iran.
Even with poverty and farm aid programs along with opium poppy eradication, the situation in Afghanistan has not greatly improved. This article describes the deterioration of the countryside as NATO and U.S. forces prepare to move out. However, the opium crop has reached an all-time high. According to the article, there is a strong possibility of warlords and other individuals that might jockey for power over the profits from the opium crop. It’s estimated that over 500,000 acres are being used for poppy cultivation even though millions of dollars have been spent trying to eradicate the crop.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Chief Yuri Fedotov says, “We have a serious risk that without international support, without more meaningful assistance, this country may continue to evolve into a full-fledged narco-state”. The article also quoted a local farmer named Mullah Baran who said, “I do not know what is legal and what is illegal in Afghanistan. If I grow poppy, that is illegal, but if I pay a bribe, that is legal”. In 1994, the UNODC first estimated that opium poppy cultivation took up about 175,000 acres of land. When the Taliban took over, production grew to 240,000+ acres in 2001. This was before the Taliban was ousted in most of the country by U.S. forces.
According to this article, the opium poppy crop will generate about 1 billion dollars in profit. A portion of this money will find its way to the Taliban – funding their insurgency -while some of the funds will go to corrupt officials. The article mostly focused on the possibility of Afghanistan becoming a fully fledge failed narco-state, despite all the efforts of NATO and the U.S. forces over the past decade.
The demand for heroin around the world has fueled the growth of poppy fields, increasing the size almost three times 1994. Addiction and dependence on drugs fuels the production of drugs worldwide and places many of the drug producers in a difficult situation. Many of these farmers have little to no means of survival outside drug production. The illicit abuse of drugs and alcohol breeds more pain and destruction than anyone can imagine. Breaking the cycle of addiction by seeking treatment can be the first great leap for someone who is suffering.