U.N. reports Afghan opium production is up again

Friday, February 11, 2005
Afghanistan is the #1 producer of opium in the world — responsible for 87% of all illicit opium production — according to reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and its opium production has accelerated since the coalition invasion in 2001.

The November 2004 annual reports put out by UNODC show that Afghanistan opium production has been increasing each year since the coalition invasion. The UNODC report for 2004 shows a 64% increase over the previous year in the area of opium production, and a 22% increase in export value for the year(US$2.8 billion).

"It could be brought under control with a good dose of law enforcement, which at the moment is lacking," Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of UNODC, said in an interview in 2003 when reports showed an increase in hectares under production of 8% over the previous year. "I believe that the war against terrorism, leaving aside addiction, will not be won unless we control the opium economy of Afghanistan."

Doug Wankel, Counter Narcotics Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said the opium industry in Afghanistan is financing terrorism in an interview with USA Today. "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."

Calling the data "disheartening," UNODC reported that Afghanistan now produces three-fourths of the world's opium. The report estimated revenues from growing and trafficking to be half of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.