Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Report: Record opium crop in southern Afghanistan

Above: An Afghan police officer stands guard as another hacks away at opium poppy plants in southern Afghanistan.

Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, where some 7,000 British troops are based, is on the verge of becoming the world's biggest drugs supplier, cultivating more opium than entire countries such as Burma, Morocco, or even Colombia, the UN warned yesterday...

The report will not be welcome reading for the British government. Five years ago, Tony Blair said Britain would take responsibility for overseeing Afghanistan's anti-narcotics programme. Last year, Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister, said an increase in the opium harvest planted before British troops arrived in Helmand was one thing, a further rise this year - now predicted by UN and British officials - would be quite another.

"Drugs and the insurgency are intrinsically linked," a British official admitted yesterday. British military commanders, meanwhile, warn that attempts to eradicate the poppy crop without providing alternative incomes will simply increase hostility to foreign troops and increase support for the Taliban.

Read the rest at the Guardian