16:59 GMT +318 July 2019
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    Trapped in the trade : newer, higher yielding opium poppies - with bigger bulbs that mature faster and produce more resin using less water - just strengthen the financial incentives for Afghan farmers to grow opium, which can earn them 12 times as much as conventional crops.

    Afghani Deputy Anti-Drug Chief: Security Threats to Blame for Opium Supply Spike

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    The UN Office of Drugs and Crime has reported that opium production in Afghanistan has jumped 43% in 2016; total land area used for cultivation has also spiked by 10%, and now exceeds 200,000 hectares, producing 4,800 metric tons of opium poppy a year. Kabul knows that it has reason for concern, but hasn't written off its anti-drug efforts yet.

    The UN report, produced in coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics, shows that eradication efforts have declined by 91% over the past year, hit by a deteriorating security situation and a loss of funding from Western donors including the United Kingdom.

    Speaking to Sputnik Dari, General Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, deputy minister of Afghanistan's Ministry of Counter Narcotics, suggested the security situation is to blame for the drug problem coming close to spiraling out of control. 

    "The figures in the report indicate that progress in the fight against drug trafficking in Afghanistan cannot be called significant," the official admitted. "The reasons for this are new security challenges, combined with old threats, which have been aggravated over the past year."

    "Hopefully, next year we will have more opportunities to more effectively confront the threat of drugs, and especially in matters of preventing the cultivation of narcotic plants," Ahmadi added.

    At the same time, the official suggested that it wouldn't be appropriate to completely write off Kabul's counter-narcotics efforts; there have been some achievements. "There are results, especially in curbing the supply and movement of drugs," Ahmadi stressed. "This year, 1,063 operations have been carried out to curb drug supply chains. As a result, 1,408 tons of narcotic substances have been seized."

    "Furthermore, operations have been carried out to destroy large factories producing various drugs in the provinces of Badakhshan, Nangarhar and Farah," the official noted.

    Afghanistan has been in a state of political and social turmoil for decades. After the US-UK and NATO invasion in 2001, the country quickly became the producer of over 90% of the world's heroin. In the past year, the Kabul government has been fighting an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency, which has established control over swatches of territory across the country. Other terrorist groups are also believed to be operating in the country, including forces affiliated with Daesh (ISIL/ISIS).

    The security situation, and the drug trade, have affected Russia's security interests. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Sputnik and Indian media that the situation in Afghanistan is concerning, with 'decisive actions' necessary to counter existing threats. Putin stressed that Moscow and New Delhi in particular are interested in multilateral cooperation to support the country in dealing with issues of national security, building up its counter-narcotics capacity, and ensuring economic and social development.

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    Tags:
    security situation, opium, War in Afghanistan, opium poppy, heroin, drug production, insurgency, United Nations, Taliban, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, Afghanistan
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