Northern Alliance main opium producer: UN
UN: Afghan government has largely failed to eradicate the opium poppy crop
Afghanistan 'at the mercy of narco-terrorists'

U.N. Agency Warns Afghanistan Over Opium
Afghanistan, the world's leading opium producer

The Guardian
, October 29, 2003
By SUSANNA LOOF, Associated Press Writer

Opium crops in W. Nooristam (RAWA photo - June 2003)

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Afghanistan, the world's leading opium producer, risks becoming a ``failed state'' if it doesn't curb its rising trade in illicit narcotics, the U.N. drug agency warned Wednesday.

Afghanistan produces three-quarters of the world's illicit opium - the raw material for heroin - and two-thirds of all opiate abusers use drugs of Afghan origin, according to a new survey by the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Afghan opium farmers and traffickers brought home about $2.3 billion, or about half of the country's legitimate gross domestic product in 2003, the report said.

``Out of this drug chest, some provincial administrators and military commanders take a considerable share. The more they get used to this, the less likely it becomes that they will respect the law, be loyal to Kabul and support the legal economy,'' the agency's director, Antonio Maria Costa, said in an executive summary of the report.

``Terrorists take a cut as well: the longer this happens, the greater the threat to security within the country and on its borders,'' he said.

The Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban factions --especially ethnic Pashtun groups in the east of the country-- are whole-heartedly involved in the trade. Indeed, if anything the Northern Alliance has been more closely associated with narcotics than the Taliban.

The Taliban regime largely confined itself to taking a ten to twenty percent levy on opium harvests, heroin production, and drug shipments, earning it a minimum of $40-45 million annually. By contrast, the Northern Alliance -or at least key figures in it-have actively engaged in the production, sale and trafficking of opium for factional and personal gain.

Mark Galeotti, The Observer/The News,
December 31, 2001

The country's opium poppy farmers cultivated 197,680 acres in 2003, an increase of 8 percent compared to last year, the report said. Opium production increased by 6 percent to 3,968 tons.

The U.N. agency has surveyed opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan since 1994. This year, for the first time, the study was carried out jointly with the government.

That signals that that things are changing in Afghanistan, Costa said in the summary.

``The preconditions for change are slowly being put into place,'' he said, pointing to a national drug control strategy and a new drug control law as examples.

However, drug production and trade is so deeply ingrained in Afghanistan that it also endangers the country, Costa said.

``There is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists,'' he said.

``The country is at a crossroads: Either energetic interdiction measures are taken now, and supported by the international community, or the drug cancer in Afghanistan will keep spreading and metastasize into corruption, violence and terrorism - within and beyond the country's borders,'' Costa warned.

To battle the problem, the country must take ``energetic measures'' to ``repress the traffickers, dismantle the heroin labs, and destroy the terrorists' and warlords' stake in the opium economy - thus enabling the legitimate economy and the constitutional process to move forward,'' Costa said.

The trade is ``fueled by low risk and high profit,'' he added.

Poppy cultivation is part of the livelihood for 1.7 million people, or about 7 percent of Afghanistan's population, the report said. Though declining prices reduced the average opium grower's income by 15 percent to $594, the figure still is more than three times last year's national per capita income of $184.

The 2003 harvest was the second-biggest recorded since the agency began surveying the country in 1994.

The biggest harvest was recorded in 1999, when 4,565 tons were produced.

Poppy cultivation, which covers about 3 percent of Afghanistan's irrigated arable land, has spread to 28 of the nation's 32 provinces, up from 24 in 2002 and 18 in 1999. The extension is ``worrying,'' the report said.

The agency used satellite images and field work to collect data for the survey.

Afghanistan 'at the mercy of narco-terrorists'
Opium trade threatens to destroy infant democracy, warns UN

The Guardian
, October 30, 2003
Ian Traynor in Zagreb

Afghanistan risks degenerating into a state controlled by "narco-terrorists" and drug cartels unless the soaring level of opium and heroin production is curbed, the UN warned yesterday.

Two years after US airpower and northern guerrillas drove the Taliban from power, the world's biggest source of heroin is cultivating opium poppies and processing the opium into heroin at near record rates despite the introduction of western programmes aimed at eliminating the drug .

The UN's annual survey of Afghanistan's opium poppy cultivation and production, released yesterday, paints a bleak picture of a drug culture spreading vigorously in defiance of intense efforts by the international community, humanitarian organisations and charities to wean Afghan farmers off the lucrative crop.

The Vienna-based UN office on drugs and crime (UNODC) has been surveying Afghan poppy production for the past decade and has concluded that this year's harvest is the second biggest recorded, surpassed only by the bumper production of 4,600 tonnes of opium in 1999, a year before Taliban hardliners banned its cultivation.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 - Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan doubled between 2002 and 2003 to a level 36 times higher than in the last year of rule by the Taliban, according to White House figures released on Friday.

The area planted with poppies, used to make heroin and morphine, was 152,000 acres (61,000 hectares) in 2003, compared with 76,900 acres (30,700 hectares) in 2002 and 4,210 acres (1,685 hectares) in 2001, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said in a statement.

The U.S. figures differ significantly from those released a month ago by the United Nations, which estimated that poppy cultivation rose 8 percent in 2003, to 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares) from 185,000 (74,000 hectares) in 2002.

The White House said the United Nations used a different method, based a mixture of ground surveys and analysis of imagery from commercial satellites.

The U.S. estimates are based on a sample survey of Afghan agricultural regions conducted with specialized U.S. government satellite imaging systems, it added.

The United States and the United Nations also gave different estimates for Afghanistan's opium production in 2003. The United Nations said it would rise 6 percent to 3,600 metric tons, while the White House said 2003 output would be 2,865 metric tons. The United States did not give a 2002 figure., Nov 28, 2003

This year's production of 3,600 tonnes represents a 6% year-on-year increase, while poppy cultivation, at almost 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres), was up 8%. A further cause for concern is that opium poppies are now being grown in 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces, against 18 in 1999.

"The country is at a crossroads," said Antonio Maria Costa, director of UNODC. "There is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists."

Afghanistan is by far the biggest source of the heroin trafficked in western Europe, supplying 90% of the market.

The report found that Afghanistan produces 75% of the world's illicit opium and that two in three opiate users take drugs from Afghanistan. The poppy industry generates around half the official gross domestic product.

The industry is controlled by warlords and crime cartels who use two prime routes to ferry the contraband to western Europe. Raw opium is refined into heroin at illicit laboratories all over Afghanistan.

The heroin is taken north, through the former Soviet states of central Asia and up into the Russian Urals, before heading for western Europe via Moscow and St Petersburg. Alternatively, it is dispatched Turkey and then smuggled into western Europe via the Balkans.

"Out of this drug chest some provincial administrators and military commanders take a considerable share. The more they get used to this, the less likely it becomes that they will respect the law, be loyal to Kabul," Mr Costa said.

"Terrorists take a cut as well. The longer this happens, the greater the threat to security within the country and on its borders."

In one of his first moves on taking office last year, President Hamid Karzai outlawed opium poppy cultivation, trafficking and consumption while charities and other outsiders sought to develop crop substitution projects and payments to farmers to eradicate poppy growing.

To judge by the figures released yesterday, there is scant evidence of success. The bumper harvest of 1999 was followed in 2000 by the Taliban prohibition, a gambit aimed partly at gaining international recognition of the regime.

The ploy failed but the ban went ahead, slashing that year's opium production. Last year, however, UNODC confirmed a "major resurgence" of poppy growing".

Mr Costa called for stiff "interdiction measures", backed by the international community, "to destroy the terrorists' and warlords' stake in the opium economy".

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