Opium production in Afghanistan soared to a frightening record level of 8,200 tons in 2007, which accounts for 93 percent of the world’s total supply, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report released Monday.
The report said the production witnessed an increase of 34 percent compared to 6,100 tons in 2006, adding opium cultivation area rose to 193,000 hectares from 165,000 in 2006.
The amount of Afghan land used for growing opium is now larger than the combined total under coca cultivation in Latin American countries – Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, it said.
With a population of just 2.5 million, Helmand province in southern Afghanistan has single-handedly become the world’s biggest source of illicit drugs, surpassing the output of entire countries-like Colombia (coca), Morocco (cannabis), and Myanmar (opium) – which have populations up to 20 times larger.
At a press conference held in Kabul, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said “poppy growing is closely linked to insecurity. Where anti-government forces reign, poppies flourish.”
Costa called for a more determined effort by the Afghan government and the international community to combat the twin threats of drugs and insurgency by building upon the promising developments in the north and reacting to the dismal failures in the south.
The 37,000-strong NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan have all along refused to take part in the anti-drug war in this country as they fear their participation may push many Afghan poppy planters into their opponent camp led by the Taliban.
As to this, UNODC chief Costa called on NATO countries to more actively support counter-narcotics operations, saying “Since drugs are funding insurgency. Tacit acceptance of opium trafficking is undermining stabilization efforts.”