Opium poppy cultivation and narcotics trafficking were among the subjects discussed at the international donors conference on Afghanistan. The London meeting brought together officials from more than sixty countries.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that Afghanistan accounts for eighty-seven percent of global opium production. The U-N says that in 2005 more than eight percent of the Afghan population was involved in growing or trafficking opium poppies. According to the U-N, the value of the illegal narcotics trade in Afghanistan in 2005 is estimated at two-billion-seven-hundred-million dollars, the equivalent of more than fifty percent of Afghanistan's gross national product. According to the U-N, eighty percent of this money goes to drug trafficking networks rather than to the two million Afghan farmers and laborers believed to be involved in opium poppy cultivation.
Drug abuse in Afghanistan is also a concern. The U-N estimates that one-hundred-seventy-thousand Afghans use opium and or heroin. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says it will take a long time to eradicate opium poppy cultivation":
"Afghanistan will need at least ten years of a strong, systematic consistent effort in eradication, in law enforcement, and in the provision to the Afghan farmer of an alternative economy in order for us to be free of poppies by that time."
The U.S., Britain, and others, are supporting programs to create alternative livelihoods for poppy growers. These include providing new work opportunities, distributing seed and fertilizer, training farmers to grow other profitable crops such as fruit and nuts, and building infrastructure to support rural markets.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "To ensure the prosperity of Afghan democracy, the country's economy must continue to offer greater opportunities for farmers and traders and entrepreneurs to succeed in the legal free market – without being driven into the underground economy or the narcotics trade."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.