Afghanistan as a Narco State

In Afghanistan, where the wars on heroin and terrorism intersect, the narcotics side is winning.

The cultivation of Afghan poppies, whose opium is the raw material for heroin, more than tripled last year. That's according to the State Department's annual report on global narcotics, released Friday.

Opium-trade proceeds help finance Taliban remnants and other terrorists, and with 40 to 60 percent of the economy now dependent on this trade, the country is verging on becoming a narco state, the report warned. As the source of about 90 percent of the world's heroin, Afghanistan is "an enormous threat to world stability."

Narcotics have been a major factor in the Afghan economy since the Soviets invaded in 1979. But in the lawlessness that's flourished since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban, when about 19,800 acres of land supported poppy growth, production has exploded - to nearly 511,500 acres last year.

At least there appears to be a will, both in and outside Afghanistan, to tackle this escalating problem.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who campaigned on an antinarcotics platform, is busy creating the government and legal machinery necessary to strike at the drug trade. His message has backing from many Afghan mullahs - a strong moral force.

Britain, which has the lead international role in Afghanistan's antidrug effort, plans to double its aid for the antiopium battle this year, to $100 million. The US, a far larger spender, is proposing $780 million in antinarcotics assistance.

Improved security, the rule of law, and an economically viable alternative to poppy farming are needed changes if Afghanistan's - and the world's - antiopium efforts are to be effective. The burst in poppy growth demands a long-term antidrug commitment.

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