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From Afghan poppy to heroin, Afghan Taliban

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – NOOR MOHAMMAD – | An Afghan farmer in an opium field in the Helmand region of southern Afghanistan, April 11, 2017

From poppy to heroine, the Taliban now controls the entire production line from which they derive a much better profit for their war treasure than unprocessed opium, a US official said.

Afghanistan produces 80% of the world’s opium and, besides the meteorological conditions, does not limit this lucrative crop, generating $ 3 billion of income in 2016 for 200,000 ha and 4,800 tons of poppy in 2016, according to the United Nations.

The Taliban banned poppy cultivation in 2001 when they ruled Afghanistan. They came back and, even if they defend themselves, levy taxes on farmers producing and traffickers to finance their jihad against the Afghan government.

Worse, for William Brownfield, who has been in charge since 2011 at the US State Department of Drug Control: “The Taliban now transform all the poppy harvested into morphine and heroin,” he said. “Harvested opium is being transformed here in the country,” he hammered in Kabul in July. “They get a lot more money if they transform opium before they leave the country.”

As evidence: in May 2017, at the last harvest, opium (black gum from poppy) was minted at USD 163 / kg and heroin at USD 2,300-3,500 on the regional market.

“Arriving in Europe, it reaches 40,000 euros per kilo” (45,000 USD) underlines a European expert of the fight against drug that confirms the suspicions American.

For him, too, the model has changed, he said, citing the spectacular seizures of precursor chemicals operated in Afghanistan, such as the anhydride, necessary for the transformation of opium into morphine, the first step before heroin.

50 tons in the first half of 2017, compared with 66 tons in 2016, he said.

At the beginning of July, authorities seized 15 tons of anhydrous acid in the west, near the border with Iran: one of the routes of export of the drug via Turkey. The other is from Pakistan, from Karachi, to West Africa, which is redirecting it.

– Clandestine Laboratories –

Seizures of morphine also increased: 57 tons discovered in six months in 2017, against 43 tons in 2016.

“By comparison, in the first half of 2016 we were at 3 tons,” said the expert who reminds us that “in stup ‘, we seize about 10% of what really exists.”

“It’s easy to build a rudimentary laboratory: walls of cob, a thatched roof and when the operation is finished we evacuate,” he says.

Between January and June, 46 clandestine laboratories were dismantled by the Afghan services, compared with 16 in the first half of 2016 – and 85 for the whole year according to its figures – 160 says the Ministry of the Interior.

For the US Department of Anti-Narcotics, the DEA, these seizures have deprived traffickers of about $ 300 million in income since early January.

“A lot of numbers,” Brownfield said, “but the Taliban have a substantial percentage.”

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which publishes its report on Afghanistan every year, in 2016, opium provided “about half of Taliban revenues”.

For a senior Western official, it is rather “two-thirds”: “The Helmand is only a huge drug factory, it is poppy, drug and Taliban,” he accuses.

Helmand, a Taliban stronghold in the south of the country, borders Pakistan, alone accounts for 80 percent of the Afghan poppy, still or almost produced in areas under Taliban influence, UNODC notes.

UN experts are cautious, however: “Despite the proven involvement of some Taliban commanders in the manufacture of opiates, it does not prove that the Taliban, as a movement, are wet,” judge David Dadge, a spokesman Vienna, UNODC headquarters.

But the Afghan Ministry of the Interior is more nuanced: “The Taliban need money to run their war machine, which is why they have taken control of production sites,” said the spokesman of the anti-war department. Drug, Sayed Mehdi Kazemi, who claims to have stopped “53 + drug lords +” last year.

“But they mainly produce heroin on the other side of the border because they know they are being tracked down,” he says.

The United States has swallowed $ 8.6 billion since 2002 in the fight against drugs in Afghanistan for mediocre results.

But the consumption of opiates explodes in the United States, causing an unprecedented epidemic of overdose (33,000 deaths, including 13,000 due to heroin in 2015).

“The heroin consumed in the United States comes from Mexico, but it’s still a problem for us, because 90% of the heroin consumed in Canada comes from here,” Brownfield insists.

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