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Afghanistan's Opium Business Booms During Terror War

War against terror conflicting with war against drugs

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Shielded by the ongoing war against embedded terrorists, Afghanistan's opium poppy growers were able to more than double production during 2003, according to the White House's Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP).

The annual U.S. Government estimate for opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan shows that approximately 61,000 hectares of poppy were cultivated during the crop season in 2003 compared with 30,750 in 2002. Current cultivation levels equate to potential production of 2,865 metric tons of opium, an increase of 1,587 metric tons over the 2002 level.

According to the ODCP, the "challenging security situation" in Afghanistan has complicated the task of fighting a war against drugs and war on terrorism at the same time. As the terrorists lose ground, the opium poppy growers win, and much of the money from Afghanistan's opium sales goes right back to the terrorists.

"Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is a major and growing problem," said John Walters, Director of the ODCP. "Drug cultivation and trafficking are undermining the rule of law and putting money in the pocket of terrorists. The drug trade is hindering the ability of the Afghan people to rebuild their country and rejoin the international community. It is in the interest of all nations, including our European partners, to help the Karzai government fight the drug trade."

Hoping to address the situation, the U.S. has solicited some international help. An ODCP press release states, "We are working closely with the United Kingdom, which is leading the coordination of international counternarcotics assistance to support the Afghanistan government, to implement a strategy that focuses on four key elements: promoting alternative livelihoods for farmers; strengthening drug law enforcement, interdiction and eradication programs; supporting capacity building for Afghan institutions; and raising public awareness to promote the central government's anti-drug policies and tackle drug use and production."

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducted its own estimate of Afghanistan poppy cultivation, which was released on October 29, and showed only an eight percent increase to 80,000 hectares from the 2002 estimate of 74,000 hectares last year. The UN estimate uses a different survey methodology, employing a mixture of ground surveys and analysis of commercial satellite imagery. U.S. Government estimates are based on a scientific sample survey of Afghan agricultural regions conducted with specialized U.S. Government satellite imaging systems.

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