Pubdate: Fri, 04 Jan 2002
Source: Hawk Eye, The (IA)
Copyright: 2002 The Hawk Eye


With the Taliban gone, Afghan farmers turn back to an old cash crop.

In the sheltered valleys of the rugged Hindu Kush mountains, life is 
lying dormant under the parched soil, awaiting the first spring in 
seven years that Afghanistan will be free of the Taliban.

But many of Afghanistan's starving farmers have not planted winter 
wheat on their terraced plots that run from draught-plagued valleys 
well up the steep, rugged sides of the mountains.

With the Taliban gone, farmers have resumed the ancient tradition of 
planting poppies. From the poppy's seed pods is harvested a gooey 
resin that becomes opium, which in turn is processed into heroin.

By April the poppies that sip a fraction of the water needed by grain 
crops will bloom, turning the hillsides crimson. By summer the pods 
will be snapped up by buyers who will process and smuggle the 
finished product out to waiting customers in the Western world.

The Taliban had officially banned poppies as unIslamic. But as the 
Boston Globe reports, the Taliban didn't ban growth so much as cut 
production by taxing farmers for 50 percent of their profits.

The Taliban, which had no visible means of support save terrorists' 
money, presumably was caching drugs to raise the world price.

It worked. Last year the price of one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of raw 
opium jumped from $30 to $700.

The Taliban no doubt intended to use drug profits to keep financing 
its religious and social oppression, even as it bragged to the world 
that it had outlawed the trade.

The United Nations Drug Control says Afghanistan produced 75 percent 
of the world's heroin pre-ban.

With the Taliban gone and the new government in Kabul preoccupied 
with rudimentary issues, the drug dealers have a green light to 
resume the trade.

They will no doubt be aided by the Northern Alliance warlords who, it 
is estimated, ran more than 400 heroin processing labs in their 
territory prior to Sept. 11.

Assuming there are no other economic alternatives for Af-ghans and 
everyone falls back into their old ways, the U.S.-led war on terror 
will have contributed to a bitter irony -- the revival of the drug 
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