Afghan opium plantings expected to be up 40% from 2005

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Opium seized in Afghanistan

In spite of the U.S. Government's "five pillar counternarcotics strategy" for combating narcotics in Afghanistan, approximately 140,000 hectares of poppies were planted in Afghanistan this year, according to the Associated Press. This would be an increase of about 40 percent from 2005. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's Rapid Assessment Survey released last month indicates that poppy planting for 2006 increased in 13 provinces, decreased in only three and remained stable in 15.

Afghan government officials are asking the drug lords to invest their illegally earned profits in Afghanistan, according to Helmand Gov. Mohammed Daud, the governor of the biggest opium-growing region.

During a trip to the region by U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann, Daud said; "We as a government will provide them the opportunity to use their money for the national benefit."

The narcotics trade currently accounts for 35 per cent of Afghanistan's income. Doug Wankel, a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who is point man for the U.S. counternarcotics initiative at the American Embassy in Kabul, says the opium industry is "financing terrorism. It's financing subversive activities. It's financing warlordism. ... And if it's a threat to the government of Afghanistan, it's a direct threat to the national security interests of the United States."

The USA's "five pillar strategy" includes public information, alternative livelihoods, eradication, interdiction, and law enforcement/justice reform.