The Taliban have launched a campaign to end poppy farming in Afghanistan, with the goal of eradicating heroin and opium production in the country, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
The new policy, announced in April and going into effect now, could affect the economic welfare of millions in the country where poppy farming is a staple industry. Afghanistan is the world’s biggest opium producer, and is a major source of heroin in Asia and Europe, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Sirajuddin Haqqani, once one of the world’s most wanted designated terrorists, turned up today at the Afghan interior ministry for the Taliban’s announcement that they’re banning poppy cultivation. pic.twitter.com/PVxnvYRimW
— Sune Engel Rasmussen (@SuneEngel) April 3, 2022
Armed Taliban militants could be seen recently in the southern Helmand province guarding a field as a tractor destroyed a field of poppies, according to the AP.
Afghans who violate the ban “will be arrested and tried according to Sharia laws in relevant courts,” Taliban deputy interior minister for counternarcotics Mullah Abdul Haq Akhund told the AP.
Akhund said the Taliban were working with other governments and non-governmental organizations to replace the poppy fields with alternative crops for farmers. One poppy farmer whose field was destroyed told the AP that if he is not allowed to grow the crop, he “will not earn anything.”
Afghanistan’s poppy production has steadily increased, reaching a level in 2021 high enough to make 650 tons of heroin, according to estimates from the United Nations, the AP reported. Opiate production accounted for up to 14% of the country’s GDP in 2021, according to the AP.
The Taliban tried to eradicate poppy farming once before in the late 1990s, and largely succeeded. But farmers returned to the staple crop once the U.S. moved into the country, the AP reported. The U.S. spent billions of dollars trying to reduce poppy cultivation in the country, the outlet noted.
In the U.S., federal and state governments have struggled to contain the spiraling opioid crisis claiming thousands of lives every year. Overdose deaths reached record levels in 2021, especially in young people, fueled by imports from Mexico and China of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. (RELATED: REPORT: Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipes, Heroin Use For Drug Addicts)
President Joe Biden’s administration, rather than crack down on opioid distribution and production, has employed a “harm reduction” strategy to combat the opioid crisis, which facilitates opioid use by funding or distributing clean drug paraphernalia.