The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, issued its annual report on narcotics in Afghanistan. The UNODC found that in northern and central Afghanistan the number of poppy-free provinces rose from 13 to 18, suggesting that where there is security and good governance counter-narcotics policies are effective.
"In the south and west of the country cultivation is a continuing cause for concern as the lack of security and political will hinder progress," said the UNODC report. The report noted that "the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the United States and its international partners, and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime are engaged in a comprehensive strategy to fight the narcotics problem in Afghanistan by building on the successes where there is security and good governance and developing new strategies in areas of the country where security concerns have hampered counter-narcotics efforts."
Afghanistan is the world's largest cultivator of opium poppy, accounting for 82 percent of global cultivation in 2007. Cultivation decreased in 2008 by nineteen percent to 157,000 hectares, still a sizeable portion of world cultivation.
Poor weather conditions were a leading factor to an overall cultivation decrease for 2008. However, in the north and central provinces a combination of factors contributed to lower cultivation, including, increased security, integrating counter-narcotics with the counter-insurgency campaign, better governance, political will on behalf of the governors, and an effective public information campaign.
The narcotics trade continues to be a significant revenue source for the insurgency. The insurgents are profiting at the expense of the people of Afghanistan as a recent UN World Drug Report shows. The report revealed that an estimated 1 million people, almost 4 percent of the population of Afghanistan, are addicted to drugs. Half of those addicted are believed to be Afghan refugees returning from Iran.
The drug threat in Afghanistan remains unacceptably high. The government of Afghanistan and the international community must redouble their efforts to build effective security so that the poppy crop in the south can be eliminated just as it has in the other regions of Afghanistan.