The U.S. State Department's just released 2006 International Narcotics Control Report notes that while the political situation in Afghanistan is improving, illicit opium production and trafficking still accounts for roughly one-third of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Anne Patterson, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, says, "the size of the opium poppy crop in Afghanistan makes its elimination a daunting task":
"But Afghanistan's leadership, with the support of the international community, is beginning to demonstrate greater political will to eradicate this crop which puts at great risk political and economic advances. Companion programs are helping farmers adopt alternative ways to earn a living and establishing more effective law enforcement and justice systems."
Ms. Patterson says that reducing the poppy crop "will be a long, hard effort":
"The good news in 2005 of a forty-eight percent drop in opium cultivation from the 2004 level is tempered by reporting that poppy planting is again on the rise."
According to the United Nations, Afghanistan still remains the largest cultivator of illicit opium poppy in the world, accounting for approximately eighty-seven percent. In 2005, Afghan president Hamid Karzai expressed his commitment to stem drug production and trade. Mr. Karzai has set the goal of a twenty percent reduction in opium production in 2006.
The State Department report notes that the U.S., Britain and other countries and organizations have implemented "a five pillar program which includes a public information campaign, alternative development, crop eradication, effective interdiction, and police and justice sector reform."
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.