The Afghanistan Bulletin
Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan is Becoming a Big Narco-State
Afghanistan is one of the world’s biggest opium producers and a big source for heroin in Europe and Asia. Opium cultivation in Afghanistan has increased since the Taliban took over in August 2021. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that since August 2021, opium cultivation has increased by 32%, or 56,000 hectares, compared to the previous year. The areas that had the largest increase of cultivation were located in the south-western parts of the country. And in some regions, opium poppy cultivation took over a large proportion of agricultural land.
The increase of opium cultivation in the last year contradicts the Taliban’s campaign to eradicate poppy cultivation. In April 2022, Taliban announced “a ban on opium poppy cultivation just as the opium harvest was about to begin.” Authorities stated that those who violate the ban “will be arrested and tried according to Sharia laws in relevant courts.” Although a ban is in effect, it is evident that the ban is not prioritized and not followed according to the statistics.
Photo Source: CNN
In addition to the opium cultivation increase, opium prices have also spiked after the Taliban made the ban. This means that this year’s harvest is the most profitable for sales since 2017. Prices nearly doubled from USD 116 in March 2022 to USD 203 after the takeover in August. With the high demand of opium, it gives the Taliban an opportunity to generate big amounts of revenue in order to fuel their illicit activities and repressive regime. While the United States and many other international donors continue to donate money to Afghanistan to avoid mass hunger throughout the winter, the “terrorist-led group is raking in huge sums from the illicit traffic that supplies 80 percent of the world’s heroin.” There is no doubt that the Taliban do not care about the Afghan people as they would rather violate their ban and generate revenue that benefits them as opposed to contribute to Afghan society.
As the United Nations does not have proper cooperation of the de facto authorities, a former UNODC agent stated that the figures in the report are likely to be underestimated. This means that the real percentages of opium prices and cultivation may actually be much higher than what is on paper. This is due to U.N agencies not being able to monitor the sizes of the poppy crops or opium yields because they don't have the same access they did under the previous Afghan government. It makes sense for the Taliban to secretly produce and distribute opium because if they made it publicly known, then they would be going against their own ban.
The Taliban has been lying about stopping opium production as reported data does not align with their previous statements on the ban. Opium cultivation and prices have significantly increased since the Taliban rule despite their ‘efforts’ to stop it. Instead of helping the Afghan society battle the ongoing humanitarian crisis, economic catastrophe, the group would rather participate in the increase of opium, which is dangerous to those who misuse it, to generate profit for their own interests.