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In spite of U.S. military occupation, opium production at all-time high in Afghanistan

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Some things never change. In spite of a United States military presence there for more than 12 years, the production of opium poppies, used in the manufacture of heroin, remains at an all-time high in Afghanistan.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to new data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, "Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a sobering record high in 2013.

"According to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey, cultivation amounted to some 209,000 hectares, outstripping the earlier record in 2007 of 193,000 hectares, and representing a 36 percent increase over 2012."

In short, Afghanistan dedicates more land to the cultivation of opium poppies - than the rest of the world combined.

The 131,000 hectares in Afghanistan devoted to opium cultivation in Afghanistan was more than the combined 76,500 hectares used to cultivate opium poppies in other places.

This included the 43,600 hectares in Myanmar, the 12,000 hectares in Mexico, the 4,100 hectares in Lao People's Democratic Republic, the 362 hectares in Pakistan, the 338 hectares in Columbia and the combined 16,100 hectares under in various other countries. This, according to the UNODC's "World Drug Report," published in May.

The U.S. sent military forces into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime there after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in 2001. According to UNODC, Afghanistan had a recorded low of 7,606 hectares under cultivation with opium poppies in 2001. By contrast, Afghanistan had had 82,171 hectares under cultivation the year previously, 2000.

The U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan generally increased in the following years, especially after President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and launched a military surge there.

A year after the terrorist attacks, in September of 2002, there were 10,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In January 2009, the month Barack Obama was first inaugurated, there were 32,800 U.S. troops there. By December 2009, there were 69,000. In September 2010, there were 98,000.

In spite of the beefed-up U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, the top opium cultivating regions in that country are provinces in the nation's south and west that lie along the borders of Iran and Pakistan. These include Helmand province, which borders on Pakistan; Kandahar province, which borders on Pakistan; Farah province, which borders on Iran; Nimroz province which borders on Iran and Pakistan and Nangarhar province, which borders on Pakistan.

"The vast majority of opium cultivation remained confined to the country's Southern and Western provinces, which are dominated by insurgency and organized criminal networks," the report states.

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