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Taliban Leaders Want Afghans to Plant More Trees

Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said Sunday, “the Mujahideen and beloved countrymen must join hands in tree planting" adding trees have an “important role in environmental protection, economic development and beautification of earth."

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FILE - In this photograph taken on Nov. 22, 2016, an Afghan child shepherd walks under the changing leaves of trees on the outskirts of Jalalabad.
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Afghanistan, Feb 28, 2017: A Taliban leader has issued a statement in four languages calling on Afghans to plant more trees.

The rare public announcement comes amid fears of fresh attacks that usually spike during springtime.

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Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said Sunday, “the Mujahideen and beloved countrymen must join hands in tree planting” adding trees have an “important role in environmental protection, economic development and beautification of earth.”

The message still cites that the Taliban will continue to be actively engaged “in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings” referring to the Kabul government the Taliban wants to overthrow.

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Afghan government’s reaction

But Afghan government officials dismissed the message and called it a way to “deceive public opinion” and distract others from the group’s “crimes and destruction.”

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani, said, “Since the establishment of the Taliban movement the only things that these people have in their minds are fighting, crimes and destruction.”

The United Nations reported the highest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2015 with 11,500 people dead or wounded. More than 3,000 children were among the victims, an increase of 24 percent from the previous year, the U.N. said.

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“They should stop planting IEDs [improvised explosive devices] that are killing so many innocent Afghans including children and women daily,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

Wahid Muzhda, a political analyst in Kabul, said messages of “planting trees” or claiming the group is building roads and bridges are usually the way Taliban hopes to show they would bring leadership in areas of the country they control. (VOA)

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Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Hold Meeting To Counter Trafficking of Opiate

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts.

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An Afghan man works on a poppy field in Jalalabad province. VOA

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have pledged to increase cooperation and information-sharing for effectively combating the trafficking of Afghan opiates.

War-shattered Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium, though the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted in its latest survey the opium cultivation decreased by 20 percent in 2018 due to a severe drought and reduced prices.

The illegal opiates are largely smuggled to international markets through Pakistan and Iran.

Need for more initiatives 

Afghan, Pakistan and Iranian counternarcotics officials concluded their two-day UNODC-facilitated interaction Wednesday in Islamabad, where delegates underscored the need for more efforts against the massive flow of illicit drugs.

Participants at the “Triangular Initiative” meeting called for timely sharing of information and conducting simultaneously interdiction operations along their shared largely porous borders.

oPIUM CULTIVATION
In this April 11, 2016, photo, farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

The forum was established in 2007 with a mission to promote regional cooperation to reduce the poppy cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs in the region and beyond.

Officials acknowledged that despite Afghanistan’s political tensions with Pakistan and Iran anti-drugs cooperation largely continues.

Renewed attitude 

Cesar Guedes, UNODC representative in Pakistan, noted the three countries attended the Islamabad meeting with “a revived attitude and role”, raising prospects for more effective counternarcotics efforts in 2019.

“More needs to be done because the level of [Afghan opium] production has also increased. They need really to coordinate closer in their joint efforts,” he told VOA

Guedes also called for increased international assistance, saying Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran alone cannot curb the menace of drugs.

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FILE – Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. VOA

“This has to be done in the framework of shared responsibility. All the countries, producers, consumers and transit need to join the effort,” he said.

Despite many challenges facing the government, the head of the Afghan delegation said authorities have taken significant steps to eradicate drug trafficking.

US assistance 
Director General for Policy Planing at the Afghan Ministry of Narcotics, Mohammad Osman Frotan, said 89 percent of poppy cultivation this year has taken place in the Afghan provinces most hit by insurgent activities. He said counternarcotics authorities during 2018 have seized more than 433 tons of different types of drugs, and arrested and prosecuted almost 4,000 suspects.

Also Read: Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts. But the effort has failed to stop opium production, which increased to record highs and stood at an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017. Critics blamed insecurity, rampant corruption and patronage by influential Afghans for the unprecedented growth. (VOA)