The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Like Iraq violence, Afghani poppy production hits new high

While we're hitting milestones throughout the Middle East, they're not the sort to cause celebration in the White House. Afghanistan already produces almost all of the world's opium (and by extension heroin), and since the previous record in 2004, the poppy crop has increased about 50%.

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan has hit record levels - up by more than 40 percent from 2005 - despite hundreds of millions in counternarcotics money, Western officials told The Associated Press.

The increase could have serious repercussions for an already grave security situation, with drug lords joining the Taliban-led fight against Afghan and international forces.

A Western anti-narcotics official in Kabul said about 370,650 acres of opium poppy was cultivated this season - up from 257,000 acres in 2005 - citing their preliminary crop projections. The previous record was 323,700 acres in 2004, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. (. . .)

The U.N. reported last year that Afghanistan produced an estimated 4,500 tons of opium - enough to make 450 tons of heroin - nearly 90 percent of world supply. (. . .)

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimate that opium accounted for 52 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product in 2005.

"Now what they have is a narco-economy. If they do not get corruption sorted they can slip into being a narco-state," the U.S. official warned.

Transforming Afghanistan could've been a genuinely great accomplishment for the administration (and a rare success in the 'war on drugs'), but the diversion of manpower and money to Iraq looks increasingly like a disaster for both.