title: 'Afghan opium heads for record high' published: true publish_date: '31-08-2016 14:56' taxonomy: category:

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    The UN says that the opium crop in Afghanistan is increasing for the third year running. According to their latest information Afghanistan is moving towards record levels of opium cultivation, as other markets fail, twelve years after the fall of the Taliban. VoR's Nima Green reports. No signs of abating An Afghan farmer walks amongst a waist high field of poppies, collecting the bulbous seed pods to sell on in what is an incredibly lucrative trade. And it is a trade which, despite being illegal, shows no signs of abating. The UN Drug and Crime report reveals that Afghanistan is likely to reach a near record level of opium cultivation in 2013. Afghanistan already produces about 90 per cent of the world's opium, and continued rapid increases in its cultivation are being blamed on the instability in several provinces across the country. Ineffective battle Efforts to destroy poppy fields and dismantle mobile drugs labs have been largely ineffective and unsustainable, which reflects particularly badly on Britain, designated the “lead nation” for counter-narcotics operations more than a decade ago. Back in 2001, Tony Blair said that waging ‘a war on drugs’ was one of the main reasons for Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan. However, the United Nations warned that opium cultivation in the country had increased by 18 per cent in 2012. The Afghan government has also admitted that less than 10 per cent of the total crop was destroyed. And last month, spokesman from the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics, Abdul Qayum Saamer, told reporters that the Ministry estimates the Taliban make at least $100 million a year from opium. Britain spent more than $960 million in 2002-2009 on so called “state building” and humanitarian assistance. Poor tackling of the problem Jean-Luc Lemahieu from the UN, said there has not been enough investment in offering alternatives for farmers to grow other crops. He questions whether the International community has ever been completely committed to counter-narcotics in Afghanistan. For many Afghan farmers the choice is a hard one as poppies are the most valuable crop. Nigel Inkster, theDirector of Transnational Threats and Political Risk, believes that a key reason NATO and Britain’s lack of success in tackling the drugs trade, is down to not doing enough make this choice easier for farmers. He says that there is a serious lack of security in farming communities, particularly in southern provinces. The issue of security is a particularly important one, considering the impending withdrawal of British and other NATO troops. The question remains whether reconstruction is possible as long as there are such high levels of opium cultivation and heroin dependence. Nigel Inkster believes that despite the bleak figures, there is some hope for Afghanistan’s ability to recover. Destroying poppy fields Last month the Afghan government announced plans to destroy 15,000 hectares of poppy fields this year, in its latest efforts to control the heroin trade that fuels endemic violence and corruption. The target is 50 per cent higher than in 2012 but already 24 police officers and seven soldiers have been killed. Afghanistan cracks down on opium production.

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