Security and good governance makes all the difference in reducing Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher. “In many of the areas in the north and the east of the country, with the assistance of dynamic governors, we’ve been able to increase the number of poppy-free provinces dramatically,” said Assistant Secretary Boucher. “More and more, the drug trafficking is down in the south, where it’s associated with the insurgency and they feed off each other,” he said.
The impact of drug trafficking in Afghanistan was a major focus of the recent international donors’ conference in Paris, France. “Those who are engaged in the narcotics industry are opposed to any gain in the government’s legitimacy or stability for the country. They provide funding for terrorist activities and fuel corruption,” said the government of Afghanistan in its Afghanistan National Development Strategy report, the centerpiece of the donors’ conference.
Five southern Afghan provinces account for seventy percent of the country’s opium poppy cultivation, which in turn accounts for much of the heroin and related illegal narcotics flooding into Europe, the Middle East and Asia, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The southern opium trade is increasingly controlled by drug kingpins and wealthy landowners who have partnered with the Taliban to take advantage of continued insecurity. They earned an estimated two-billion-eight-hundred-million dollars in 2007, while the average wage for an opium farmer in Afghanistan is three-hundred-three dollars a years, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime 2007 Opium Survey.
The new Afghan development plan builds on the country’s 2006 counter-narcotics strategy and transfers more responsibility to provincial governors. The plan also strikes at drug trafficking through efforts to improve security, strengthen Afghanistan justice system, and promote new economic opportunities through education, small business loans and reconstruction projects.
The U.S. Agency for International Development continues encourage to the return of legal commercial farming with training, seeds and fertilizer, repaired roads and irrigation systems. The U.S. is helping Afghan farmers develop new food-processing plants and markets for legal fruit, vegetable and orchard crops. Ending Afghanistan’s drug trade will be a long and difficult process, and will require a sustained commitment by Afghan authorities and the Afghan people. For its part, the U.S. will be there to help.