Afghanistan’s Counter Narcotics Directorate Chief Mirwais Yasini is concerned that this year’s hearty opium harvest will provide the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists with ample drug money to buy everything from satellite phones to ammunition, the Australian reported May 31.
This year’s opium harvest is expected to at least match last year’s 3,600-ton crop.
Yasini said he is aware of at least two millionaire drug smugglers supplying Taliban fighters with ammunition and communications equipment in the southern part of the country.
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office of Drug Control, said the smugglers are also paying taxes to the terrorists at a rate of between 13 percent and 15 percent of their load.
“Cultivation takes place in the center of the country and then the opium is moved by convoys slowly towards the border of Iran or Pakistan,” said Costa. “Periodically these convoys run into insurgents or paramilitary checkpoints and they are asked for a share.”
According to statistics from the United Nations, in 2000 — when the Taliban banned opium cultivation — only 8,000 hectares of poppies were being grown in Afghanistan, producing about 185 tons of opium. When the U.S. removed Taliban control the following year, 74,000 hectares were planted, producing 3,400 tons of opium. In 2003, 80,000 hectares of poppies were planted, producing 3,600 tons of opium.