Nearly ninety percent of the poppies used in the production of illegal heroin are grown in Afghanistan. As the U.S. State Department's latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report says, while "General political and economic circumstances in Afghanistan have improved since January 2004. . . .the narcotics situation continues to worsen, despite positive steps taken by both the government and international donors."
The U.S., Britain, the United Nations, and others are working with Afghan president Hamid Karzai to confront the problem, with Britain taking the lead among the international community on this issue. They are promoting alternative crops, trying to reduce poppy production, and supporting the criminal justice system.
And there have been some successes. In 2004, the Afghanistan Special Narcotics Force seized more than eighty tons of narcotics, destroyed seventy-five drug laboratories, and closed two major opium markets.
Robert B. Charles, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, noted that "The [narcotics] problem…in Afghanistan is considerable...but the commitments to address it have grown markedly":
"President Karzai has made enormous progress in the short period of time he has been there. There was this sort of mini-Loya Jirga [national meeting] on drugs. There's a very clear commitment that they do not want to make this the future of that country."
The commitment is also coming from Afghanistan's religious leaders. Mr. Charles said that a recent survey found that "eighty-five percent of Afghan mullahs oppose having heroin be part of their...economy":
"That is a very, very significant statistic because it reveals a certain moral fabric based on Sharia law, against this becoming the norm."
Illegal drug production, says Mirwais Yasini, the head of Afghanistan's counter-narcotics directorate, is undermining Afghanistan's standing in the world. Mr. Yasini says, "We cannot live with this dragon any more."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.