Afghan farmers are returning to the opium trade because of soaring prices and a shift in focus by Western military forces from drug enforcement to fighting the Taliban. The situation creates yet another problem for the United States in its effort to conclude a war now entering its 10th year, The Washington Post reported
Mohammed Azhar, a deputy minister charged with fighting the drug trade, said the price of opium is seven times higher than wheat. “There is a $58 billion demand for narcotics, so our farmers have no disincentive to cultivate poppy. We have gotten a lot of help, but it is not enough. Afghanistan is still producing 85 percent of the opium in the world, and it is still a dark stain on our name,” he told the Post.
Prices for Afghan opium went from $29 a pound in 2009 to $77 in 2010 and some 1.5 million families now depend on the crop, according to a United Nations report. Poppy growing was banned by the Taliban and initially ignored by Western troops, the Post said. In 2004, British and U.S. forces began to target the drug, which the Taliban uses to fund their insurgency, and poppy growing was ended in 20 of 34 provinces.
Lt. Gen. Bazz Mohammed Ahmadi, head of the anti-narcotics police, told the Post he was excited when he took the job in September “but it seems narcotics is no longer a priority. All the attention now is on security, but people don't realize that drugs and insecurity go together."
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