August 25th, 2007

Chris Keeley

Taliban Push Poppy Production to a Record

A sparsely populated desert province twice the size of Maryland, Helmand produces more narcotics than any country on earth, including Myanmar, Morocco and Colombia. Rampant poverty, corruption among local officials, a Taliban resurgence and spreading lawlessness have turned the province into a narcotics juggernaut.

Taliban Push Poppy Production to a Record Again

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, Aug. 25 — Afghanistan produced record levels of opium in 2007 for the second straight year, led by a staggering 45 percent increase in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province, according to a new United Nations survey to be released Monday.

The report is likely to spark renewed debate about the United States’ $600 million counternarcotics program in Afghanistan, which has been dogged by security challenges and endemic corruption within the Afghan government.

“I think it is safe to say that we should be looking for a new strategy,” said William B. Wood, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, commenting on the report’s overall findings. “And I think that we are finding one.”

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“There is a proverb in Afghanistan,” he said. “By one flower we cannot mark spring.”