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Opium Trade in Afghanistan

Table of Contents
· How much is Produced
· U.S. and U.N. Counter-Narcotics Policy
· Difficulties of Fighting Opium Production
· What the Future Holds

How Much is Produced

Afghanistan is one of the largest producers of opium supplying
approximately 90% of the global market and in 2006 it was estimated that 5,644 metric tons was harvested. The majority of opium in Afghanistan comes from the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand accounting for a third of the world’s opium production. Opium in Afghanistan has been increasing for the last ten years and has brought attention to the United States and United Nations because it is believed the drug money is supplying terrorist
organizations. [3]

U.S. and U.N. Counter-Narcotics Policy

The opium trade was not an issue at the start of the Bush administration due to the Taliban’s rule which prevented most farming of poppy seeds. [1] From 2001 to 2009 opium production increased because of the lack of enforcement from both Afghan and U.S. officials. Counternarcotic operations picked up with the start of the Obama administration with the goal of eradicating opium by destroying crops and persuading farmers to grow something else such as wheat. [2] Because the fighting in Afghanistan has gone down since 2001 there are more soldiers available to enforce anti-drug laws. It was reported that production had gone down in 2010 and is predicted by the U.N. do go down again this year. [5]

Difficulties of Fighting Opium Production

Because opium is very profitable it has woven its way into the economy and has become a way of life for 70,000 Afghan farmers. Military officials warn that destroying the crops would enrage the population because families have invested money into them. The idea of growing wheat is not very popular because it does not make as much money as opium. Another option officials have is to let famers sell the poppy seeds to drug traffickers and have U.N. officials grab the smugglers. That way drug lords would be punished and not the farmers but authorities fear the drug syndicates would still manage to get their hands on the opium. Another difficulty is the fact that Afghan soldiers earn only $136 a month which makes them easy prey for a wad of money from a drug dealer. [5]

What the Future Holds

Despite the fact that opium production has gone down recently and is expected to do so in the near future, U.N. officials are worried that other provinces will start producing poppy plants. Regardless officials say the process of removing opium will be long and require years of work. More policing and better job opportunities are two major factors that are needed in order for the U.S. and U.N. to win the drug war. [4]