Reuters & Noor Zahid / Voice of America – 2016-10-08 19:45:08
UN: Afghan Opium Production Increases as Eradication Collapses
Reuters & Voice of America
VIENNA (October 5, 2016) — Opium production in Afghanistan increased this year to one of the highest levels on record as efforts to eradicate the crop in a country that provides much of the world’s heroin collapsed, the United Nations said Wednesday.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports annually on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, and is due to give its yearly update toward the end of this month.
“Unfortunately, preliminary results suggest that illicit cultivation has increased well above 200,000 hectares [494,000 acres],” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said in the text of a speech prepared for delivery to an international conference on Afghanistan in Brussels.
That would make it one of the top three years since the UNODC began providing estimates in 1994, according to previous reports by the Vienna-based agency. The greatest area recorded to date was 224,000 hectares in 2014.
“The production of opiates is expected to follow the same upward trend,â€ Fedotov said. “Eradication has been close to zero.”
Eradication rose 40 percent in 2015, to 3,760 hectares, according to the last UNODC annual opium survey for the country.
Fedotov did not give a reason for the increase in production, but his agency’s 2015 report said there is a “high correlation” between a poor security situation and poppy cultivation, and the government in Kabul is facing a resurgent Taliban 15 years after US forces helped oust the militants.
Taliban successes on the battlefield have exposed the defensive limits of Afghanistan’s NATO-trained armed forces, which are supposed to number 350,000 personnel but which have been heavily depleted by casualties and desertion.
“Clearly we cannot afford to see international community engagement in Afghanistan weaken,” Fedotov told the conference, at which world powers raised $15 billion to fund the country over the next four years.
Islamic State Eradicating Afghan Poppy Crops
Noor Zahid / Voice of America
WASHINGTON and NANGARHAR, Afghanistan (May 2, 2016) — The United States and the West have long targeted Afghan opium and heroin production. Now the industry has a new enemy: Islamic State (IS). Afghan opium farmers in areas under IS control told VOA’s Afghan service that IS has started eradicating poppy crops in eastern parts of the country.
IS has reportedly destroyed opium plants used for heroin production in Nangarhar’s Achin and Dehbala districts and has warned farmers to find another cash crop.
IS “eradicated our poppy crop because they say it is illegal,” said Nawab, a local farmer who goes by his first name only. “I had a one-hectare well-grown poppy field. I did not grow wheat, and now I lost the poppy as well.”
Mohammad Naeem, an Achin resident, told VOA that IS militants destroyed poppy fields in the district and arrested a number of local people for growing poppy.
“They say this plant is Haram [prohibited in Islam] . . . people had cultivated poppy in a few villages but it has been destroyed,” Naeem said.
Afghan Eradication Efforts
The Afghan government has not confirmed the reports. However, a spokesperson for the Nangarhar governor said poppy plants have been cultivated for decades in some remote areas once controlled by the Taliban insurgent group, but now under IS rule.
Afghanistan is responsible for more that 90 percent of the world’s heroin, worth an estimated $3 billion a year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Analysts say the Taliban netted some 30 percent of its annual revenue from the drug trade.
The Afghan government last week kicked off its poppy eradication campaign in Nangarhar. With Western aid and expertise, the Afghan government has been trying to eradicate opium crops and help farmers turn to alternative farming.
Poppy fields in Surkhrud and Behsud districts are located within six miles of the provincial capital city of Jalalabad.
“We do not have an accurate survey about the size of poppy cultivated this year, but poppy eradication has started in the Surkhrud district,” Idress Safi, the head of the poppy eradication campaign in Nangarhar, told VOA.
But Nawab said the government will not help growers in areas under IS control.
“The government so far has done nothing,” said Nawab, who lost this year’s opium production income.
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