Chimpy has created a nacro-state in Afghanistan, where poppy cultivation accounts for a whopping 52% of the country’s GDP.
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.
“It is a significant increase from last year … unfortunately, it is a record year,” said a senior U.S. government official based in Kabul, who like the other Western officials would speak only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive topic.
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.
This year’s preliminary findings indicate a failure in attempts to eradicate poppy cultivation and continuing corruption among provincial officials and police – problems acknowledged by President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai told Fortune magazine in a recent interview that “lots of people” in his administration profited from the narcotics trade and that he had underestimated the difficulty of eradicating opium production.
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.
Opium cultivation has surged since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. The former regime enforced an effective ban on poppy growing by threatening to jail farmers – virtually eradicating the crop in 2000.
Fears of fanning the insurgency has constrained efforts to destroy the poppy crops of impoverished farmers – particularly in Helmand, where the area being cultivated for poppies has increased most sharply. The province now accounts for more than 40 percent of the poppy cultivation nationwide.
“We know that if we start eradicating the whole surface of poppy cultivation in Helmand, we will increase the activity of the insurgency and increase the number of insurgents,” said Tom Koenigs, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan.