View Full Version : Opium Windfall Fuels Afghan Insurgents: U.N.

11-16-2007, 11:30 AM
Opium windfall fuels Afghan insurgents: U.N.


Fri Nov 16, 2007 9:38am EST

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Profits from opium fuel the Taliban insurgency, the United Nations said on Friday, in a new call on NATO to tackle Afghanistan's burgeoning drugs trade.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said the total export value of Afghan opiates stood at about $4 billion, equivalent to more than half of the country's legitimate gross domestic product, confirming estimates it made in August.

Taliban insurgents, warlords and drug traffickers shared the bulk of that total, while farmers received about a quarter of the total with district officials taking a percentage through a levy on the crops.

"Since drugs are funding the insurgency, NATO has a self-interest in supporting Afghan forces in destroying drugs labs, markets and convoys," UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in a statement.

Violence in Afghanistan has steadily increased since the Taliban, ousted from power by U.S.-led forces in 2001, relaunched their insurgency two years ago.

"The potential windfall for criminals, insurgents and terrorists is staggering and runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars," Costa said.

"Destroy the drug trade and you cut off the Taliban's main funding source."

At a news conference Costa called current opium eradication efforts "a farce" and said any decision on aerial spraying, which is backed by Washington, was one for Kabul.

But the method is opposed by President Hamid Karzai and a number of NATO states on grounds including its ecological impact.

"We don't want any measures towards eradication that would alienate the farmers," Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations told the news conference.

The 26-nation NATO alliance has in the past stressed its 40,000 troops have no mandate to lead drug eradication, but has said it was looking to do more within its existing remit to support counter-narcotics efforts by Afghan authorities.

He said the bulk of opium and heroin now moved out of Afghanistan via two new "Golden Triangles" involving Pakistan and Iran and Turkmenistan.

The UNODC report shows Afghanistan accounts for 93 percent of world opium production and is the biggest narcotics producer since 19th century China, highlighting the failure of Afghan and British-led international efforts to tackle the problem.

The wholesale price of a gram of heroin grew with every border crossed, the report noted, rising from $2.50 in Afghanistan itself to $3.50 in Pakistan and Iran, $8 in Turkey, $22 in Germany, $30 in Britain and $33 in Russia, it said.