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Author Topic: Corrupt Combatants Fight for Control of Lucrative Afghan Drug Trade  (Read 120 times)
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April 06, 2016, 08:20:34 PM

Afghans have an expression: “Well, whatever has happened, we are still skinny.” In other words, they have not gotten rich yet, try as they might.

It is an expression heard often here in Helmand Province, the southwestern region that is the world capital of opium and heroin production. Afghanistan accounts for 90 percent of the world’s heroin; more than two-thirds of that comes from Helmand’s opium poppies, according to United Nations figures.

Sometimes the expression is uttered enviously — how did we miss out? Other times it is delivered with greedy sarcasm — how much more can we get before the feeding frenzy is over?

This year’s first poppy harvest season has just begun, and the bright red flowers are garish splotches across the heavily irrigated landscape. But unlike previous years, there will be no serious efforts to eradicate the opium crop in Helmand, thanks to a combination of Taliban advances and out-of-control corruption, with both sides battling over the drug trade.

Helmand is also the deadliest province in Afghanistan, with more than half of all combat fatalities in the last year, Afghan officials have now confirmed.

President Ashraf Ghani’s envoy for Helmand, Maj. Gen. Abdul Jabar Qahraman, has been given the task of fixing the situation. He says that a big part of the reason Helmand has become so difficult is that so many of its combatants have a financial stake in seeing the continuation both of the drug trade and the war itself — something he hopes to undo by getting all sides talking to one another.

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