Pubdate: Sat, 04 Mar 2006
Source: Mindanao Times (Philippines)
Copyright: 2006 Mindanao Times.
Bookmark: (Heroin)


LASHKARGAH, Afghanistan (AFP) - The governor of Afghanistan's Helmand
province, the main producer of the country's huge opium crop, has
vowed to destroy all the opium poppies in his province in two months.

The production of opium, used to make heroin, is wrapped up with
deadly unrest in southern Helmand and must be eradicated, said
governor Mohammed Daoud. The province is one of the worst-hit by
violence blamed on a Taliban-led insurgency.

"The area of under opium cultivation is going to increase this year,"
Daoud said in an interview with AFP in the provincial capital
Lashkargah this week.

"But next week we will begin a total eradication programme. In two
months, there will be no opium in this province," he said.

Helmand last year produced 25 percent of Afghanistan's opium, which
makes up about 87 percent of the world's total. The UN says the area
under cultivation has increased by 50 percent this year.

Helmand is also one of Afghanistan's most dangerous provinces and has
seen some of the deadliest clashes between police and militants.

"Drugs and terrorism are very close, they feed each other. As the
production of opium increases, the terrorists entrench themselves,"
Daoud said.

He said he expected the Taliban and other militants to use the
eradication drive to their profit by offering to protect opium growers
against the authorities.

Anonymous letters attributed to Taliban have been distributed in
southern provinces such as Helmand in the past months threatening
farmers with reprisals if they do not grow opium or offering
protection against eradication efforts.

Daoud acknowledged that many of the farmers were poor and could not
afford irrigation, which made opium a good crop for them.

Nonetheless, "we are going to eradicate it all, it doesn't matter who
owns the field," he said.

He said a force of about 1,500 men would be deployed throughout the
province, with the support of British troops, to carry out the
eradication, which experts have said is unrealistic.

Britain is due to send about 3,300 troops to southern Afghanistan in
the coming months to help with reconstruction and fighting the drug
trade in Helmand.

The troops will form part of a NATO-led force of about 16,000 troops
tasked with helping Afghanistan to stabilise and rebuild after 25
years of war in which lawlessness and private militias thrived.

While the government that replaced the reviled Taliban in late 2001
has declared war on drugs, it has not been able to capture the bosses
of the lucrative drugs trade who allegedly include senior officials.

This required a thorough and transparent investigation, and proof,
Daoud said. 
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