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Afghanistan: Opium Market to the World

“For more than two millennia, Afghanistan has been at the crossroads of civilizations and a major contributor to world culture,” declared the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2003.  Exactly what Afghanistan has contributed to world culture is not so clear, but the desperately poor, primitive, war-torn state is important in another way.  Over the last quarter-century, Kabul “became a major contributor to world narcotics production,” explained the UNODC.

The United Nations attempted to put a positive spin on Afghanistan’s role as a global Opiates-R-Us: “The establishment of democracy in Afghanistan and the Government’s measures against cultivation, trade and abuse of opium have been crucial steps towards solving the drug problem.”  Like most else emanating from the United Nations, however, the claim is meaningless spin, p.r. cover for a problem that is growing worse, despite the United Nations’ and the United States’ efforts.  Even the UNODC had to admit: “Dismantling the opium economy will be a long and complex process.”

Why is this problem so hard to solve?  The popularity of poppies reflects the fact that drug trafficking is profitable.  The recent upsurge in production is a response to the ouster of the totalitarian Taliban, which once won U.S. aid in its efforts to fight the drug trade.  Although Washington...

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