Banner Year for Afghan Opium Crop
Earlier predictions have come true and it's a banner year for opium production in Afghanistan. Officials are now worried it will spread to Iraq. What is responsible for the surge?
Instability in the wake of the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq has resulted in one booming market for the production of drugs, and a second potential market for narcotics sale and transit, officials said....The country's exploding drug production has already become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. In Thursday's debate in Florida, Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry cited the burgeoning opium poppy crop as evidence of President Bush's "colossal misjudgment" in turning his attention from Afghanistan to wage war in Iraq.
Administration officials are pushing this meme hard:
Indeed, U.S., U.N. and Afghan officials believe that opium smuggling is a source of funding for Taliban insurgents, Al Qaeda terrorists and criminal gangs operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Much of the opium is exported through the lawless border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding, officials said. Insurgents encourage small farmers in areas they control to grow the drug, and charge a tax on it for transportation.
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