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World’s No. 1 opium-producing Country: Afghanistan’s illicit Poppy Harvest on the Rise Again in 2017

A new United Nations survey said Friday the total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 10 percent, from 183,000 to 201,000 hectares, compared to the previous year, leading to a significant rise in the production of illicit opium.

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An Afghan man walks through a poppy field in Surkhroad district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, 14, 2017. Source-VOA
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The world’s No. 1 opium-producing country, Afghanistan, is braced for an exploding poppy harvest this year, as farmers are cultivating the illicit crop in areas where it has never grown before.

“Unfortunately, the narcotics production is on the rise this year,” Javed Qaem, Afghan deputy counternarcotics minister, told international donors in Kabul Tuesday. “We are concerned that narcotics would increase this year, including in areas and provinces where previously we had zero opium production.”

A new United Nations survey said Friday the total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 10 percent, from 183,000 to 201,000 hectares, compared to the previous year, leading to a significant rise in the production of illicit opium. The illicit drug is fueling insecurity, violence and insurgency among other problems to discourage private and public investment in Afghanistan, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its survey report.

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Qaem’s comments come amid growing international concern that the Taliban, who are fighting Afghan government troops in rural areas of the country, are fueling the poppy trade by engaging in trafficking and skimming hundreds of millions dollars in profit to fuel their militancy.

Taliban insurgents, according to U.S. officials, net 60 percent of their war chest from narcotics.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March, 16, 2017, after being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March, 16, 2017, after being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Top producer of opium

Afghanistan is thought to produce an estimated 90 percent of the world’s heroin. As poppy cultivation spikes, U.S. intelligence officials warn that the war-torn country is likely to see more armed violence this year.

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“The intelligence community assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in [the] military assistance by the United States and its partners,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a Senate hearing last week.

Since 2002, the U.S. has spent more than $8.5 billion on counternarcotics in Afghanistan — about $1.5 million a day, according to the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

In addition to war, opium fuels corruption and organized crime in Afghanistan, a country already ranked among the five most corrupt states in the world by Transparency International.

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Only 13 of the country’s 34 provinces were reported poppy-free in 2016, and this number has dropped into single digits this year, Afghan officials say.

Areas of cultivation increase

Afghan authorities said poppies, which traditionally have been grown in southern provinces, have found fertile lands in several northern and northeastern provinces, including Balkh and Jawzjan.

A large-scale increase also is expected in provinces with previously little opium crops, such as northwestern Badghis and Ghor.

“Opium is cultivated in almost half of the province, including areas under the government influence,” a resident in northeastern Baghlan province told VOA on condition of anonymity for safety concerns. “Poppy crops are seen everywhere in the northeastern region. Badakhshan — which borders Tajikistan and China — is the epicenter of narcotics in the north.”

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 8, 2016.

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 8, 2016.

Helmand province a top producer

Around 50 percent of the poppy crop in Afghanistan is produced in southern Helmand province, which borders Pakistan.

The Afghan government says the increase in drug production and trafficking is taking place mostly in conflict-hit areas.

“Opium cultivation, production and trafficking take place in remote areas that are under the control of militants, terrorists and the Taliban,” said Afghan General Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, the deputy interior minister for counternarcotics.

The Afghan government says it, along with aid agencies, has been trying to help Afghans find a sustainable alternative crop source. But those efforts appear to be failing.

Afghan counternarcotics police said they last year seized almost 650 tons of contraband drugs. The confiscated drugs included raw opium, heroin and hashish. Around 2,683 smugglers and traffickers, including 67 women, were arrested last year, Ahmadi said.

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Experts say worsening security and immediate economic benefits for farmers are major reasons for the rise in poppy cultivation.

“A satanic triangle of smugglers, terrorists and corrupt government officials is involved in drug production and trafficking,” Haroon Rashid Sherzad, former Afghan acting minister of counternarcotics, told VOA. “Security is an important reason, but several other factors fuel the drug production and trade in Afghanistan. Corruption at the local government levels encourages poppy cultivation.”

Afghan response is lacking

Experts also believe that the increase is partly due to weak counternarcotics efforts by the government.

“The government lacks political will to fight opium production,” Abdul Aziz, a Kabul-based counternarcotics expert, told VOA. “For the last 16 years, the government has done little to rid the country of narcotics and provide alternatives to farmers.”

According to Sherzad, counternarcotics efforts require a comprehensive approach and coordination among government departments, which, he said, is lacking. He added that “narco-entrepreneurs” control large portions of government lands in several provinces where they cultivate poppies. (VOA)

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  • Eyebin Eme

    You read smell this? Smells like bullshit.US troops for hire guarding the Afghan poppy fields. Big pharma needs it’s opium to feed drug addict Americans

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All You Need To Know About India’s Strategic Chabahar Port

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border.

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Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma

  • The Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for India
  • It is in Iran and is being built and operated by India
  • This port will increase India’s trade with Central Asia and Europe

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border. Chabahar is the trans-shipment and logistics hub for the Makran Coast and Baluchistan province of Iran.

Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons

The tension between India and Pakistan is nothing new. There are several instances where both the countries have tried to obstruct each other’s political or economic agendas. This obstruction, along with other strategic reasons, resulted in the India and Iran’s deal on the Chabahar Port, which is crucial because of several reasons.

Here are few things about it you may not have known before :

  • Under the Trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement of 2016, the Chabahar port is the gateway to the Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan, which allows multi-modal goods’ and passengers’ transport.

Also Read: India and Iran sign agreement to develop Chabahar Port

  • The agreement also states that India will develop and operate two berths in the first phase of the port. The contract is for 10 years and extendable. This time period excludes the first two years as they will be used for construction.
Chabahar Port will make India's trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port will make India’s trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port’s first phase, which was developed by India, and inaugurated by Iran on 4th December 2017, is of great strategic importance as it makes it easier for India to conduct trade with Central Asia and Europe.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port is also important for India’s trade because of Pakistan’s reluctance in allowing India to send goods to Iran and Afghanistan through its land territory.

Also Read: Gwadar Port: China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant 

  • The development of Chabahar Port will increase the momentum of the International North-South Transport Corridor whose signatories include India, Afghanistan and Russia. Iran is the key gateway in this project. It will improve India’s trade with Central Asia as well as Europe.
    The Chabahar Port has also reduced Afghanistan’s dependence on the transit road, which went through Karachi. Now, trade can be conducted via Chabahar Port too. Islamabad has accused India of trying to use this development as a means to destabilise Pakistan.

    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port also acts as a counter to the barely 100 km away, Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is developed by China. However, Iran has defended that Chabahar is not a rival to Gwadar and Pakistan is invited to join in its development.
  • In October 2017, India sent its first shipment of wheat to through Chabahar to Afghanistan, in order to test the viability of the route.
  • India will also construct a 900-km Chabahar-Zahedan-hajigak railway line that will connect Port of Chabahar to Hajigak in Afghanistan. It will also connect Mashad in the north, providing access to Turkmenistan as well as northern Afghanistan.This project is worth $1.6 billion.

    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehrain. Wikimedia Commons
    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehran. Wikimedia Commons
  • It is being said that India will supply $400 million of steel rails to Tehran. There are also possibilities of setting up a fertilizer plant through a joint venture with the Iranian government.