International Campaign Needed to Solve Drug Problem in Afghanistan

August 28, 2003
The director general of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on August 24. Costa was in Kabul for a week-long visit to meet with Afghan officials and visit opium-producing areas in Afghanistan.

Nangarhar and the northeastern opium center of Badakhshan are the main drug-producing provinces in the country.

Opium cultivation was virtually eradicated in 2001 by the hard-line Taleban regime, but since it was toppled, Afghanistan has regained its place as the world's leading producer of illicit drugs, accounting for 76 percent of global opium production. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in July predicted this year’s opium harvest in Afghanistan would be 20 percent larger than last year's following the end of a drought. In other words, it will probably exceed 4000 tons, which would be a new record.

Political and economic analysts believe that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is an economic, security, and political problem for the country.

Although Afghanistan is mainly a producer, the Afghan capital Kabul is also facing a serious abuse problem. Rising opium production in Afghanistan is also exacerbating the drug addiction problem in neighboring countries and the rest of the world.

As a matter of fact, many factors are contributing to the increase in production of opium, the raw material for heroin. Decades of civil strife and war, poverty, and the presence of warlords and international crime syndicates that continue to dominate the lucrative trade are the main factors behind the drug problem in Afghanistan.

According to an Asian Development Bank report, Afghanistan's 2002 gross domestic product (GDP) was an estimated 4.4 billion dollars, with per capita GDP just 170 dollars. Poverty is clearly one of the driving factors behind the problem.

The anti-drug campaign is nearly as big a priority for Afghanistan as the anti-terrorism campaign, since terrorism and the drug trade are linked.

Although the United Nations and neighboring countries such as Iran have proposed plans such as alternative crops, dismantling the opium economy will be a long and complex process. Since Afghanistan is the source of most of the world's heroin, the international community, and Europe in particular, must actively participate in efforts to solve the problem.

Clearly, opium production in Afghanistan has global repercussions. Therefore, the international community must become more engaged in the campaign to eradicate the cultivation, production, and trafficking of drugs in Afghanistan.