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Bush Plays “Cowardly Lion” In A Poppy Field, As Taliban Reaps Heroin Bonanza

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In 2000 the Taliban had practically eliminated the Afghani poppy plantations that fed the world opium and heroin markets in days gone by. When the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, President George W. Bush missed his golden opportunity to advance his so-called “war on drugs” by ignoring what fields were left.

With millions of dollars in U.S. financial aid falling through slippery and corrupt fingers, and no one keeping account of it, the Afghan people fell further into poverty. With the “coalition” military focusing its efforts in the south, poor northern farmers in Badakshan began abandoning their wheat and vegetable crops. Many were unable to find promised jobs and out of desperation began growing poppies again in order to feed their families. So much was grown that summer in fact, that the heaps of emptied stalks were used for everything from firewood to roofing material.

While the Bush Administration lost interest and turned its attention and troops to Iraq, the Taliban, local warlords and the growing insurgent movement adapted. Instead of discouraging and suppressing the opium trade, the Taliban took control of it as a major potential source of its finances. As Bin Laden’s allies grew more successful, they began expanding in order to dominate the farms in the southern provinces too.

In early 2001 the opium trade was mere pocket change in the Afghanistan economy. If the U.S. led forces had wiped it out when they had their opportunity, little or no notice would’ve been paid to it. Very little effort by the American military presence would’ve been needed to maintain control over and to burn the poppy fields as they sprang up. The drug trade would’ve suffered a massive blow had President George Bush “stayed his course” and ordered poppy fields monitored across the country.

At the time of the U.S. led takeover it would’ve required only simple planning to locate what few poppy fields there were with surveillance flyovers and strafe the fields with incendiary devices or defoliation chemicals. As more time was wasted and opportunities bungled, more fields were planted to the point now where most world leaders agree that it’s out of control and hopeless to irradiate.

With the blessing of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, nearly 325,000 acres of farmland were converted to poppy cultivation by 2004. The harvest was estimated at 4,200 metric tons providing Al Qaeda and its allies with almost $3 billion dollars in only one year for their war chests. Money that, had Bush been paying attention, wouldn’t be currently used to fund terrorist attacks, the increasing insurgent movements and brazen assassinations of local government officials who didn’t cooperate.

For the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 rather than contribute military assistance to wipe out the ever enlarging cash crop in those poppy fields, the Bush administration and Republican-led congress instead contributed a mere $100 million dollars total over those three years. By 2005, the poppy crops had expanded to a volume too numerous and geographically vast to control. Throwing good money after already wasted and misspent financial help, the Republican administration elected to increase its assistance to a token 780 million in 2005. While that sounds like a lot, it isn’t compared to $4.5 billion since 2000 spent preventing cocaine from coming from Columbia.

The average local Afghan drug enforcement officer makes only $90 a month. The Taliban rakes in $900 a kilo in heroin. Al Qaeda with its allies, warlords and militias has been reinvesting their profits. Loans for seeds, fertilizer, tractors and equipment have made the largely destitute farmers financially dependent to the terrorist organization. Since the bulk of the farmer’s cash had to go back to paying for what was provided by Al Qaeda financial backers, almost all of those profits have gone straight back into Bin Laden’s pockets for terrorist acts against the U.S. and its unwary allies. Their investments have also expanded to equipping hundreds of labs across the country for cooking the opium into heroin.

By 2005, because of the shortsightedness of the Bush administration and its military allies, Afghanistan once again had become the leading opium producer, providing an estimated 87 percent of the available product worldwide. Bin Laden and his allies raked in $2.7 billion last year alone on heroin exports by harvesting a short-standing record of 4,600 tons of opium poppies. The entire of Afghanistan’s total gross domestic output was $5.2 billion, which means income from the Taliban’s fields accounted for 52 percent of it.

Bin Laden’s investments have now included corruption and/or ownership of local and provincial governments, police departments, drug enforcement officials, farmers, hundreds of heroin labs. He now controls his own worldwide distribution system via overland routes through Southern Russia, ocean routes through container shipments, and even brazenly through FedEx, Express Mail and Air Cargo shipments.

Today, so much Afghani/Taliban opium and heroin has flooded the world that the average price of a gram of heroin in Western Europe has tumbled from $251 a gram to just under $75! The result being that Columbian drug lords are becoming more aggressive in the U.S. as their prices are being grossly undercut because of an Asian flooding of their market share. Adding to South American frustration is the fact that the 2006 Afghan crop has yielded yet another new record of 6,100 tons of high-grade opium, which could produce 610 tons of heroin.

Afghanistan’s Helmand Province has been in the news lately because of all of the coalition deaths from increasingly dangerous insurgent attacks. This is explained by the fact that this year alone the Taliban-ruled region increased it’s poppy crop by 162 percent and because that one area alone accounted for 42 percent of the entire Afghan crop. The Taliban nearly owns five provinces lock, stock and barrel, particularly Helmand, Kandahar and Oruzgan in the south.

After five years of negligence their opium/heroin trade accounts for roughly more than half of Afghanistan’s economy. Had Bush not diverted world attention to Iraq and we’d stayed in Afghanistan full time, the opium/heroin trade would still be in disarray to this day.

Most Arabic countries understood grudgingly why the U.S. had invaded Afghanistan in revenge for 9/11. It was only after Bush’s foolhardy push into Iraq for apparently no reason that they could think of, that the Arab tide turned against us and Bin Laden found new and deadly allies..

The poppies have already been harvested for this year and are well into opium/heroin production; another bungled opportunity for the Bush administration. With potential billions about to go into the hands of the Taliban in the near future will the president finally see the light next year and take action?

This writer is not optimistic.

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About Jet Gardner

I like collecting books, music, movies, chess sets and friends
  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Thanks for the encouraging words Dave. I’ll let you know about the writing offer.

    Carus deus, quis have ego commissio?
    Jet

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Who puts the “hot” in Hotentott?…. courageQ
    What da they got that Bush ain’t go?

  • Nancy

    Courage…brains…heart…couth…ethics…need I go on?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Well Nancy I’m glad we got that out of the way… now what did you think of the article?

  • Nancy

    Good article & excellent information (well written as usual), but the question arises, what could we possibly do that would deter them from raising opium? I can’t think of any crop they could substitute that would pay off so well, and how can we afford to keep subsidizing the rest of the world not to grow the stuff? Should we not just dust it w/defoliant, and if not, why not? What concrete ideas are there that BushCo could pursue, should they decide to actually pay some attention to this situation (not that I’m holding my breath)?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    The point Nancy is that Bush squandered his chance years ago and now it’s beyond control. Back when we first invaded it would’ve been easy to control the few fields they had planted, but it’s expanded exponentialy now to over 325,000 acres and there’s now way, short of b52 carpet bombing with incendiaries to control it and they’d be screaming about all of the civilian casualities.

    The fields are easily found by satelite and it’d be easy to spray chemicles on the by air, but this year’s crop has already been harvested and probably mostly processed into heroin.

    Bush had more important things to do…

    Like pray
    Jet

  • Nancy

    At some point, someone will have to declare Afghanistan a rogue nation & spray, then, and to hell with the casualties, since the alternative is having the Western nations flooded with opium & heroin. The UN will never contenance it, so the western nations will have to do it themselves.

  • Nancy

    Just one more of a long list of failures to rack up to Bush’s legacy. What a sorry fucked-up record he’s leaving history.

  • Nancy

    Just one more of a long list of failures to rack up to Bush’s legacy. What a sorry fucked-up record he’s leaving history. If I were Jr., I’d cut my throat from shame at how badly I’ve screwed it all up.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Nancy the point is to try to stop the billions that it’s putting in their pockets that is financing the terror attacks today and in the future.

  • Nancy

    You’ve said that. But how?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Frankly, I don’t see how. the problem was easily solved when we first invaded. The fields are just too numerous and vast now.

  • http://www.booklinker.blogspot.com Deano

    Things to take into account:

    1). Defoliating the only cash crop that many farmers in Afghanistan are able to plant will not engender support for the US or its allies. It will create resentment, anger and hatred (even more then currently exists) thus increasing support for the Taliban etc. The typical Afghan farmer doesn’t make *that* much more growing poppy but it growing it often easier than growing more water-intensive crops and it has a ready market. Implementing a widespread and aggressive defoliation program will increase opposition – which is one reason they didn’t prioritize it.

    2). Defoliating even small tracts of farmland is very tricky in a country where practically every local has their own weaponry and is inclined to use it if pressed. Defoliant planes are typically “low and slow”…you might as well paint a bulls-eye or add a sign saying Please Shoot Me to the side of the plane. You need a higher level of security to effectively defoliate.

    3). At the time the Taliban were overthrown, the US had comparatively few troops on the ground – those that were there had more serious priorities than poppy eradication. It is a bit disingeous to scream “woulda, coulda, shoulda”…I strongly suspect that early defoliation would have been expensive, difficult and ineffective, given the logistical constraints inherent in the geography and the security… I suspect you’d be right back where you are now.

    4). I think you are overstating the case when you claim “Bin Laden and his allies raked in $2.7 billion last year alone ” – First, Bin Laden doesn’t “control” the Taliban in the sense of being a CEO or such, it is a much looser arrangement, nor does he “control” the poppy trade – it existed long before Bin Ladin arrived and will still be there long after he is dead.

    To treat the situation as through the poppy trade is some omniscent bank account that Bin Ladin can draw upon at will is an overstatement. The drug trade in Afghanistan has many, many fathers including some Afghani government, some Taliban, some Al Quada but mostly the provincial warlords and governers, clan chiefs, district shaikhs etc. Keep in mind that the Coalition forces in Afghanistan tend to call everyone that shoots at them “Taliban” even when they are not. Private enterprise is alive and well in the Hindu Kush.

    So yes – Poppy fields = major ongoing problem and major future problem.

    Is it all Bush’s fault? Yes, but only to the extent that Bush short-changed the Afghan theatre of operations of the needed levels of troops and has consistently failed to provide the Afghan economy with the economic ‘uplift’ through aid and support programs that might reduce the Taliban influence in the rural countryside and provide economic alternatives to poppy (i.e. jobs, schools, opportunity!).

    Even if Bush had provided more troops you were going to see a massive increase in poppy production simply because the Taliban repressed it quite savagely and the threat of someome defoliating your investment is a much different threat then someone shooting you and your family in the back of the head in a soccer stadium….

  • http://www.booklinker.blogspot.com Deano

    Sorry, just wanted to add this brief addendum – despite my comments above it is a good and timely article, as the potential combination of funding through narco-trafficking and political terrorism is already a deadly serious problem across Peru (with the Shining Path) and Colombia with FARQ.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Deano-Welcome to the fray…

    You’re missing the point my friend. If we’d spent as much aiding the farmers and the Afghan economy as we did in Peru and Columbia, and had given the farmers the seeds and equipment that’d been promised to them but they didn’t get. There wouldn’t have BEEN an ever expanding crop to deal with.

    Are you saying the Taliban could do what the U.S. Military couldn’t… Control almost out of existance the poppy fields of Afghanistan?

    Watch the news, Bin Laden has joined forces with the Taliban by giving them men and material to support the insurgency. Check out those links in my article, that’s what they’re for.

    The poppy trade had been all but wiped out by the Taliban when they were in power because they didn’t want stoned worshipers, or people with more money/power than they. They’d wiped the poppy fields out so effectively that a gram of heroin was $325 while the taliban was in power and after the fields go going again, so much was produced that it dropped to $75 a gram because of the huge amount that was produced.

    Are you sure you read the article?

    The poppy trade exists in Afghanistan BECAUSE bin Laden provided the means, seeds and equipment. It didn’t exist when the Taliban ruled. Yes-before they ruled and afterward, but not while.

    It has been established that the Taliban now controls 2/3 or Afghanistan, and that it was done with bin Laden’s help and finances through sale of heroin and opium from bin Laden’s fields.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Deano 14-which is why they were so up in arms when bin Laden’s fields came in and their profits fell through the floor.

    Compare what Bush spent supressing Columbian fields vs what he spend supressing Afghan fields.

    We’re talking billions vs millions.

    Bush ignored Afghanistan once he gave himself the green light to invade Iraq, and we’re paying the price now.

  • Glenn Greenway

    Legalize drugs, empower the developing world and defund terrorism.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Damn, what did I do with that vicodin Mr. Greenway?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    I find myself disgusted that Bush spent that time justifying Iraq instead of remembering 9/11 dead.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Well! Reuters finally caught up to me in an article published to day…

    By David Brunnstrom

    BRUSSELS, Sept 12 (Reuters) – The United Nations called on Tuesday for NATO states to give their forces the mandate for robust military action against the Afghan opium industry, saying drugs and the Taliban insurgency fuelled each other.

    The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime announced last week a surge in Afghan opium cultivation of almost 60 percent and a nearly 50 percent surge in production to an unprecedented 6,100 tonnes, making Afghanistan virtually the world’s sole supplier.

    At a Brussels news conference, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa called the figures “staggering” and warned it meant increasingly pure heroin would reach Western users and was likely to cause a surge in lethal drug overdoses.

    “Counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics efforts must reinforce each other so as to stop the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorists and terrorists protecting drug traffickers,” he said.

    “I call on NATO forces to destroy the heroin labs, disband the open opium bazaars, attack the opium convoys and bring to justice the big traders. I invite coalition countries to give NATO the mandate and resources required.”

    NATO, whose forces have been increasingly stretched fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, says it is not in its mandate to lead the fight against drugs, but says it is willing to assist with intelligence and training of Afghan security forces.

    The 26-member alliance does not want to get involved in eradication programmes it fears could spark a backlash by depriving many Afghans of their main source of income.

    Costa said many of the poorer regions did not rely on the opium trade and said concerted action was needed, combining development assistance with eradication of illegal crops.

    “WAR ON TWO FRONTS”

    “We are fighting a war on two fronts,” he said, adding that the consequences of failing to act would be severe for heroin consuming countries. “I fear that in 2007, once the new crop has reached the retail markets, Afghan opium will kill more than the 100,000 people of the recent past,” he said.

    Costa said it was vital for the Afghan government to prosecute big traffickers and attack drug-related corruption, while Afghanistan’s neighbours must stop volunteers joining the insurgency and the traffic of chemicals needed to make heroin.

    Afghan Counter Narcotics Minister Habibullah Qaderi conceded at the news conference that Afghanistan needed to do more to tackle corruption but said its allies needed to do more to assist development of security forces and rural development.

    U.S. State Department official Thomas Schweich told the briefing the surge in Afghan opium production reflected problems in the implementation of an anti-drugs strategy by the Afghan government and the international community.

    He said this had improved in recent months, with more arrests and eradication, but more needed to be done. Eradication targets must be set and officials held accountable for them.

    “Those who succeed should receive substantial development assistance … but those who fail should suffer serious consequences,” he said. “The removal and punishment of corrupt officials in large numbers is essential.”

    Schweich said the relationship between farmers, traffickers and insurgents was growing but was still relatively rudimentary.

    “(But) if we wait to attack the problem, ties between the narcotics community and the insurgency will grow stronger.”

    Columbia showed what could happen if the situation was not brought under control, he said. “You get a well-financed, tenacious and resilient insurgency and you lose even more lives trying to stamp it out … we should hit hard, we should hit now.”

    From the good ole Soothsayer
    and article pimp
    Jet

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Great article, Jet. I won’t argue with any of the points you’ve made. I just have one picky little point on behalf of a family I know that used to live in Medellin and Bogotá and now lives in Jerusalem.

    IT’S COLOMBIA, not Columbia! There may be poppy fields in British Columbia, but you weren’t writing about the Canucks, were you?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Ruvy, You say tomayto I say tomahto, let’s call the whole thing off! Thanks as always for you words. Glad you’re still safe.

    Jet

  • steve

    as a staunch conservative; I can actually come to agreement on this issue believe it or not. The troops in afghanistan should indefinitely nip this in the bud. There are no doubts that poppy cultivation funds terrorist activities. take poppy out of the equation; and Bin Laden and co. will not be able to allocate the funds for their terrorist activities worldwide. good article.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Coming from you Steve, that means a lot. Now if the news media can only catch up to me on this!

    Jet

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Steve the problem seems to be that the Bush adminstration is waiting for the polls to react before thay do anything at all.

    They need to be proactive on this issue instead of reactive…

    By the time they figure that out it’ll be too late.

    Carus deus, quis have ego commissio?
    Jet

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    According to the Washington Post, Bush is seeing visions of a “Third Awakening” religious revival… what next?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    This seems to have shut up the conservative right-wingers… I wonder why?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Looks like Bush is still waiting for his “sign” as predicted…
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO members failed to offer any extra troops for a tough peacekeeping mission in southern Afghanistan at talks on Wednesday, an alliance spokesman said.

    “No formal offer were made at the table,” spokesman James Appathurai told a regular news briefing. However, he said there were “positive indications” that some allies might consider providing additional forces.

    It could take until a meeting of NATO defense ministers on September 28-29 in Slovenia to finalize offers for up to 2,500 extra troops requested urgently by NATO commanders to cope with daily clashes with Taliban insurgents, he added.

    National defense chiefs agreed last weekend on the need to raise between 2,000 to 2,500 troops to help British, Dutch and Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

    But after consultations with their capitals this week, those same officials returned empty-handed to a new round of talks at NATO’s military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, despite growing U.S. pressure to send troops and equipment.

    The main European governments say their forces are already stretched with deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Congo and the Balkans.

    “Nations are saying they are tapped out,” said one alliance diplomat.

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned after talks in Canada on Tuesday that Afghanistan “could come back to haunt us” if the West once again allowed it to become a failed state.

    “We left Afghanistan to its own devices,” she said of a U.S. decision to abandon the country after the Soviet Union withdrew in 1989, ultimately allowing hardline Taliban Islamists to take power and harbor the al Qaeda perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States
    The German Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it would not send troops to the south, noting its existing deployment of 2,900 soldiers in north Afghanistan already took it close to a limit of 3,000 set by parliament.

    Spain, France and Italy already have contingents in western Afghanistan and the capital, Kabul, and are stretched after recent troop commitments to the expanded U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Turkey has ruled out sending any reinforcements.

    The 6,000 British, Dutch and Canadian troops leading operations against the insurgents in the south have taken almost daily casualties in the past month. NATO puts the Taliban death toll at more than 500, a figure the Taliban disputes.

    NATO’s supreme commander, James Jones, acknowledged last week the alliance had underestimated the strength of Taliban resistance and called for added troops, helicopters and transport aircraft. He said he expected responses within days.

    Jones insisted the call for reinforcements — including a 1,000-strong battalion of reserves — was not a sign of panic but an “insurance package” that would help speed NATO’s progress on the ground.

    “We are not complacent but we are making progress. If we do not get the troops requested, this will not stop us,” said NATO spokesman Mark Laity.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Here’s what those Opium Poppy sales are funding folks-Thanks to George Bush’s negligence…

    KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants attacked police headquarters in western Afghanistan on Thursday, raising fears that insurgents fleeing NATO attacks in the south are opening new fronts. Two police and two militants were killed.
    The alliance’s top commander has called for 2,500 extra troops and air support to help continue missions to end the Taliban threat quickly. But NATO members meeting in Brussels on Wednesday failed to commit more forces.
    Poland said it would send at least 900 troops by February _ not immediately as NATO commanders on the ground had hoped, and not in the volatile south where they are most needed. Poland already has 100 troops in Afghanistan.
    Militants in dozens of pickup trucks fired rocket-propelled grenades and surrounded the police compound in Bakwa, a town in Farah province, at 3 a.m., said Maj. Gen. Sayed Agha Saqeb, the provincial police chief.
    Taliban forces held the compound for about one hour before police reinforcements arrived to push the militants out, Saqeb said. Two police and four militants were wounded.
    Intense NATO-led offensives against Taliban forces in the south have forced insurgents to flee north and west into calmer areas like Farah, NATO and Afghan officials say.
    Canadian-led troops launched a major operation in Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district on Sept. 2, killing at least 510 militants over 11 days, NATO said. It was one of the most intense battles since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001.

    Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said remarks broadcast Thursday that the 900 troops would join 100 Polish soldiers already stationed in the Bagram, in eastern Afghanistan.
    “As of February next year, over 1,000 Polish soldiers are going to be serving in Afghanistan,” Radoslaw Sikorski told journalists Wednesday evening in Washington. “We are going to take part in operations primarily in the eastern part of Afghanistan.”

    A NATO spokesman in Kabul said the 900 extra troops had been expected to arrive in February as part of a routine transfer.
    “We are looking at how this can be sped up,” Maj. Luke Knittig said.

    Thursday’s raid was the second bout of Taliban violence in two days in Farah, and followed a roadside bombing there that wounded four Italian soldiers.
    The early morning clash in Farah province came a day after Taliban insurgents ambushed a police patrol there, leaving four police and four militants dead.

    “In some parts of Farah, we are seeing Taliban coming from Helmand and we are planning to attack them,” Saqeb said Wednesday. “But we need more transportation and telecommunications equipment.”
    NATO spokesman Maj. Toby Jackman said alliance forces were aware insurgents could be fleeing toward Farah.
    “If there is the possibility of some sort of security deterioration in the area we will get onto it very quickly,” he said.
    NATO has about 20,000 forces in Afghanistan, with almost half deployed in the south. Some 1,600 soldiers from a mix of nations operate in Farah.

    By AMIR SHAH
    The Associated Press
    Thursday, September 14, 2006; 6:37 AM ___
    Associated Press writer Paul Garwood in Kabul contributed to this report.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    How pathetic is it that Poland has to send help while Bush waits for his Sign from God?…

    Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) — Poland became the first country to answer a plea by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for troop reinforcements in Afghanistan, saying it will send 950 soldiers to help fight the Taliban.

    “Poland understands NATO will have to be more active in Afghanistan,” Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters in Washington late yesterday. “That is why we decided to increase the size of the force.”

    The troops will arrive in February, bringing the number of Polish soldiers in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, to 1,050.

    Sikorski, who is visiting Washington for talks with U.S. leaders, spoke just after a meeting of NATO commanders failed to produce formal offers for support. The alliance wants a total of 2,000 extra troops to bolster 19,000 soldiers from 37 countries already there, as well as attack helicopters and transport aircraft. NATO ambassadors will meet later today in Mons, Belgium, to discuss the issue.

    U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have stepped up pressure on NATO nations to send more troops after attacks by rebels loyal to the Taliban regime, which was ousted by a U.S.-led military coalition in 2001, proved more intense than expected.

    Rice Warning

    Afghanistan will “come back to haunt us” unless it becomes a stable democracy, Rice said Sept. 12, warning that the international community will pay if it allows the country to become a failed state where Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network operates unhindered.

    NATO took over operations in Afghanistan’s six southern provinces from the U.S.-led military coalition July 31 and is trying to bring stability and aid reconstruction.

    The Polish mission, which will be the fifth largest in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, will cost the state budget 300 million zloty ($96 million) next year, Defense Ministry spokesman Leszek Laszczak said by phone.

    Troops will be stationed at the Bagram base, north of Kabul, and “will take care of all necessary tasks, from coordinating with civilian military staff to fighting terrorists,” Laszczak said. Poland also has troops in Iraq.

    ISAF says it has killed more than 500 Taliban rebels since Sept. 2 when it began an offensive in southern Kandahar province, codenamed “Operation Medusa.” Five Canadian soldiers and a member of the U.S. military embedded with Afghan forces have been killed in 13 days of fighting.

    Member states gave “positive indications” at yesterday’s meeting about providing extra troops in the future, NATO spokesman James Appathurai told reporters yesterday, without providing further information.

    A meeting of alliance foreign ministers next week in New York will be followed by a conference of defense ministers in Slovenia the following week, Appathurai said.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Thanks to Mark Schannon/et al for making this an editor’s pick. I appreciate the acknowledgement.

    Right back atcha!
    Jet

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    KABUL, Sept 16 (Reuters) – A blast hit a car on a road just to the south of the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing three Afghan aid workers and wounding one, police said.

    A resurgent Taliban have unleashed a wave of violence across the Afghan south and east this year and attacks have also increased in parts of the country previously considered safe, including Kabul and the west.

    The aid workers’ car was hit by a mine, said senior Kabul police official Alishah Paktiawal.

    “It killed three of them and wounded one. They were from a non-governmental organisation but I don’t know which one,” Paktiawal said.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Paktiawal blamed “enemies of Afghanistan”, a term the government uses to refer to the Taliban and allied militants.

    While NATO forces have in recent weeks mounted a big offensive in the southern province of Kandahar, killing hundreds of militants in the Taliban heartland, violence has flared in other areas.

    Just over a week ago a suicide car-bomber attacked a U.S. military patrol in central Kabul, killing 16 people including two U.S. soldiers.

    Separately, Taliban fighters have seized an area on the main road in the remote southwestern province of Nimroz, where attacks have been rare, the province’s governor said.

    “We want the government to do something as soon as possible, this is a strategic place. This road links Herat and Kandahar,” the governor, Ghulam Dastagir, told Reuters, referring to the main towns in the west and south.

    Militants also attacked and briefly seized a district government headquarters in the neighbouring western province of Farah this week, provincial police said.

    In a separate incident, four Taliban were killed in an attack on a police post in the southern province of Uruzgan on Friday, police said.

    The most intense phase of violence since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 has surprised the government and its Western allies and raised concern about the prospects for a country that had been seen as a success in the war on terrorism.

  • Rice Farmer

    Bush hasn’t bungled any opportunities. The reason that the US invaded Afghanistan had nothing to do with freedom, democracy, capturing UBL, or 9/11. It had a lot to do with getting opium back into production and getting access to oil and gas through Afghanistan. Drug money is one of the major props of the US economy. Tens of billions of dollars in drug money is laundered by US banks each year. By wiping out poppy production, the Taliban had dealt the US economy a serious blow, and 9/11 provided a good excuse to topple the Taliban. This is why Bush makes no serious effort to wipe out poppy production.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    I’ll buy that Rice Farmer, however I’d add that bin Laden was the perfect excuse, wouldn’t you?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    A string of suicide bombings across Afghanistan killed 19 people – including four Canadian soldiers – on Monday and wounded scores of others a day after NATO announced a victory over insurgents in a southern Taliban stronghold.

    A bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in the normally quiet western Herat province, killing 11 and wounding 18, including the province’s deputy police chief, said Sayed Hussein Anwari, Herat’s governor.

    Four Canadian soldiers were killed when their foot patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber on a bicycle in Kafir Band, a village in southern Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district, said Karen Johnstone, a spokeswoman for the Canadian military in Ottawa.

    The attack, which was claimed by the Taliban, happened in the same area where NATO forces said a day earlier they had ended a two-week Canadian-led operation against insurgents that they described as successful mission that had killed at least 510 militants

    The bomb targeting the Canadian soldiers destroyed equipment and shredded the uniforms of the troops. Pools of blood soaked into the dusty road, near the remains of the bomber and a gold-colored military patch from a soldier’s uniform.

    “Some 50 to 60 soldiers were patrolling on the main street when a man on a bicycle stopped and blew himself up near the forces,” said 50-year-old farmer Fazel Mohammed, who lives about 20 yards from the site.

    Maj. Luke Knittig, a NATO spokesman, said the blast killed four NATO soldiers and “wounded a number of others, including civilians.” NATO said in a later statement that 25 Afghan civilians had been wounded, including children.

    An Afghan official said the bomber targeted Canadian troops as they were handing out candy to children and killed and wounded dozens of people. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

    But Mohammed and another villager disputed the account, saying few children were in the village at the time of the blast.

    Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to be a spokesman for Taliban affairs in southern Afghanistan, said the bomber was an Afghan from Kandahar named Mullah Qudrat Ullah.

    Ahmadi, whose exact ties to the militants are not known, told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location that militants would continue attacking U.S., NATO and other coalition forces.

    Most of Afghanistan’s recent surge in violence has taken place in volatile southern provinces, where some 8,000 NATO forces took military control from the U.S.-led coalition on Aug. 1. NATO commanders say they need another 2,500 troops plus greater air support to crush the Taliban threat more quickly.

    In Kabul, a suicide car bomber killed four Afghan police and wounded another in the eastern suburb of Poli-e-Charki, said Ali Shah Paktiawal, the criminal director of Kabul police. At least 10 civilians were wounded in the blast in a market, said a witness, Baktiar Ahmad.

    Police also clashed with suspected insurgents in neighboring Helmand province Sunday, killing 13 suspected Taliban and wounding four, said Ghulam Nabil Malakheil, the provincial police chief.

    Police recovered the dead militants’ bodies, including that of Mullah Mohammed Akhunzada, a known Taliban commander, Malakheil said. The insurgents took the wounded with them.

    The officers also recovered 12 AK-47 assault rifles, three heavy machine-guns and six rocket-propelled grenades, he said.

    Separately, two police were killed and their vehicle destroyed when they were attacked by a roadside bomb early Sunday in the same district, said Ghulam Muhiddin, the Helmand governor’s spokesman. He blamed the Taliban.

    The violence comes a day after a top NATO general declared an end to Operation Medusa in Panjwayi and neighboring Zhari districts.

    Lt. Gen. David Richards, head of the 20,000 NATO-led force in Afghanistan, described the operation as a “significant success.” Richards said the insurgents had been forced to abandon their positions and reconstruction and development efforts would soon begin in the volatile former Taliban heartland.

    Associated Press writer Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul contributed to this report.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Specificially the last paragraphs of this article…

    U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan are likely to remain steady, at about 21,000, at least until next February, the top U.S. general there said Thursday, echoing earlier comments about forces in Iraq.

    Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry told Pentagon reporters that while the Taliban enemy in Afghanistan is not extremely strong, their numbers and influence have grown in some southern sections of the country.

    “Our expectation is that our troop levels in Afghanistan will remain about steady through the point” that the U.S. takes command of the NATO force next February, he said. At that point, Eikenberry said, there will be a reassessment and commanders may make recommendations to defense officials.

    He also expanded on the reasons why U.S. troops did not fire on a group of suspected Taliban leaders gathered for a funeral _ an incident that came to light when a photo of the group was made public. Eikenberry said the military commander believed that innocent citizens, including woman and children from the village there, may have been present.

    “So that commander made a decision based upon our values as a people, based upon our values as a nation, that he would not strike,” said Eikenberry. Earlier military officials had said they considered bombing the group but decided not to after determining it was a funeral.

    Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said this week that it is not likely that U.S. forces in Iraq will be cut back before next spring.

    NATO-led forces took over the southern portion of Afghanistan in July, and later this year they are expected to take over the eastern section _ where U.S. troops are currently in command. U.S. military teams are working to train Afghanistan troops to take over the security of their country.

    Currently, there are roughly 145,000 troops in Iraq.

    Meanwhile, Gen. James L. Jones Jr., commander of the NATO military alliance, told members of Congress that the border with Pakistan “should be a lot quieter” if Taliban-linked militants observe a truce with Pakistan in which they agreed to stop crossing into Afghanistan to launch ambushes.

    Jones, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “we should know in a month or so” how well it is working, and said he will go to Pakistan at that point for talks with senior Pakistani officials.

    Eikenberry said the principles of the agreement are good, including plans to relocate some Pakistani military forces to the border.

    Both commanders expressed optimism about Afghanistan’s future, but stressed that the military is not the main solution.

    “The critical task at this stage is strengthening the government of Afghanistan, developing the economy and helping to build Afghan civil society,” said Eikenberry, who said about 76,000 Afghanistan army and police are trained, equipped and engaged in security operations.

    Both also said that success in Afghanistan depends on the country’s ability to bring its escalating drug trafficking problems under control. Officials have said opium production there had jumped 59 percent this year, to a record 6,100 tons of opium _ a full 92 percent of the world’s supply.

    Jones said that as NATO continues its efforts to take over military operations in the south, “I am optimistic where Afghanistan can be in the next few years.”

    Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., criticized the Bush administration as being “badly distracted” by Iraq.

    “There is very little to show for the billions of dollars that have been pumped into many of Afghanistan’s rural provinces,” he said.

    ___
    By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press Writer
    © 2006 The Associated Press
    Associated Press Diplomatic Writer Barry Schweid contributed to this report.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    The taliban is set to rake in billions from the poppy fields that were nearly nonexistant until Bush invaded Afghanistan and then left before the job is done.

    On that you can’t argue Big Dog

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet In Columbus

    Here’s your reading assighment JOM. I bet you can’t get past the send paragraph-it’s an editor’s pick!

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet In Columbus

    Bush is still waiting for his “sign” I see…

    LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Key allies in the war against Afghanistan’s Taliban militants pledged to stay the course on Tuesday as a suicide bomber killed 18 in the south and a blast killed an Italian NATO soldier.

    The Taliban’s intensified campaign against the government and foreign troops supporting it this year has spawned the worst violence since the hardline Islamists were ousted after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

    On Tuesday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide blast outside the governor’s office in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province. NATO troops were in the area at the time but none was hurt, an official said.

    Most of those killed were civilians, many queuing to do paperwork for a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    Near Kabul, a roadside bomb killed an Italian NATO soldier and seriously wounded two compatriots. The Taliban also claimed that attack.

    U.S. and NATO troops are up against a much more intense insurgency than expected and NATO has called for more troops from member nations.

    Western governments say the mission, in a central battlefield in the war on terrorism, is essential but the violence is raising doubts and calls for troops to come home.

    The sister of the Italian killed on Tuesday said the troops should leave.

    “You can’t let our boys be slaughtered like butcher’s meat,” said Barbara Langella. “It’s not right that other families, other wives, other mothers, fathers and girlfriends, suffer like this again.”

    Italian President Giorgio Napolitano defended the Afghan mission, saying it was “indispensable”. But the attack also stoked debate in the ruling centre-left coalition.

    “There is the financing for the mission until the end of the year, but it’s obvious that we have to seriously look at the issue of how to get out,” Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero was quoted in Italian media as saying.

    “NOT A FAILING MISSION”

    Defence Secretary Des Browne defended the Afghan mission at the annual Labour Party conference in England saying five million children were in school, many new schools, clinics and hospitals had been built and four million refugees were home.

    “This is not a failing mission,” Browne said.

    “We always knew the south would be more difficult … but we have to tackle Helmand and the south — and eventually the east — if we are to secure what we have already achieved in the rest of Afghanistan.”

    British troops have been fighting intense battles with the Taliban in Helmand. More than 30 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year.

    Among those killed in Tuesday’s blast in Helmand were six policemen and soldiers, officials said.

    “It was a suicide attack on a road in front of the governor’s office,” police official Mohammad Ayoub said in Lashkar Gah.

    Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said the bomber was from Helmand. A suicide blast in a market in the same town killed 17 people on August 28.

    Another Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast near Kabul that flipped an Italian armoured personnel carrier, killing the soldier. NATO said five soldiers were wounded.

    Nearly 140 foreign soldiers have been killed in violence or accidents during operations this year, including at least four Italians.

    The United States, which had been hoping to trim its Afghan force, has about 20,000 troops in the country. NATO, waging its biggest ground operation, has a similar number and is seeking more.

    NATO defence ministers will on Thursday examine a proposal that will allow the alliance to rapidly complete its plan to take over command of all peacekeepers in Afghanistan from the U.S. military, NATO officials said in Brussels.

    The Taliban have gained strength from links with the booming drugs trade and the support of militant networks in Pakistan. They are also capitalising on anger over poverty and corruption, analysts say. Most Afghans want foreign troops to stay.

    Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai have been at odds over Afghan accusations the Taliban are operating from Pakistan.

    The two, major U.S. allies in the war on terrorism, are due to meet President George W. Bush in Washington on Wednesday.

    By Abdul Qodous
    (Additional reporting by Ismail Sameem in KANDAHAR and the ROME, LONDON and BRUSSELS bureaus)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    and some more ammo for yer thesis here Jet…

    the stats are out, and Afghanistan produced over 90% of this years poppy crop…

    all under the supervision of al Qaeda, the Taliban and some local warlords

    anybody wanna venture a guess how many hundreds of millions of dollars this has added to the Foe’s coffers?

    another extreme fuck up brought to you by the incompetent Administration

    Excelsior?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet In Columbus

    Thanx Gonzo for coming out of hiding. The figure is $6.1 Billion on 6,100 tons harvested this year, if all goes well with my eye appointment today, I’ll try to get back later

    thanks
    Jet

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    good Luck with the eye thing, Jet…

    my best Wishes for you…

    Excelsior?

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet In Columbus

    Thanks Gonzo, Unfortunately I need more time to heal so they put it off till mid-October (sigh)

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet In Columbus

    Could UPI be using this article as a source???…
    This article proves that had Bush acted on the few fields in existance at the time of the invasion the opium trade coming out of Afghanistan still be under control…

    KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 27 (UPI) — As Taliban insurgents wage their fiercest offensive since the ultra-fundamentalist movement was toppled by U.S.-led forces five years ago, Afghanistan has produced a record opium crop.

    According to U.N. figures, opium cultivation jumped by almost 60 percent compared with last year, and some estimates hold the drug accounts for more than 50 percent of GNP in the world’s second-poorest country. Observers say booming drug cultivation continues to fuel an increasingly vicious Taliban, known to have made arrangements with trafficking cartels and intimidated farmers beyond the reach of government authority who remain stuck without a viable agricultural alternative to survive.

    Today the Afghan government relies on international assistance to uphold security and rebuild infrastructure shattered by decades of civil conflict. But officials here say internal efforts are underway to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a bona fide narco-state and win back public confidence. Having just completed his first month in office, Minister of Economy Mohammad Jalil Shams spoke with United Press International correspondent Jason Motlagh about the complexity of the drug problem, future alternatives for growth, and the need for patience as his country tries to reverse its course.

    UPI: With so much work to be done, what are your top priorities to revive the Afghan economy?

    SHAMS: The top priority at the moment is electricity, to improve the energy sector, because this is the bottleneck of all development projects. The second project, once the energy sector, in four to five years will be agriculture — mainly to replace the imports we have now. Afghanistan is an agricultural country, but we have a very imbalanced trade balance, with imports of $2.3 billion and exports of only $300-500 million. The imports are mainly consumption goods and we will try with the agriculture sector to replace these. Future exports will be our raw materials, which will be the third part of the project.

    Q. Attracting foreign investment is essential for broad-based development. What domestic industries and resources will you promote to the world?

    A. Electricity and energy are not available to the industries that depend on it. The points where we clearly have a comparative advantage are not yet identified. You can not enforce and market an industry without possibilities for selling the project. Once the energy and agriculture sectors are developed and raw materials are available we will know what kind of industries can be created in this country. We do have excellent copper resources, excellent iron resources … whether there is enough to have stable industries in this country remains a question.

    Q. Confronted with record drug production, what alternatives are there for farmers struggling to make a living without government support, and how long will they take to implement?

    A. That Afghanistan is producing the largest amount of opium in the world is a fact nobody can deny. It is also true that there is no real alternative livelihood for the people who are cultivating poppy at the moment in Afghanistan. The government is trying anti-drug measures to create an alternative livelihood. Examples include saffron in Herat province and roses in Jalalabad, and there are other alternatives working in other sectors for people in order to turnaround from drug cultivation. But these are small steps that we are taking now and it takes time, as we can see in other countries such as Pakistan, which has been successful maybe because a part of their (drug) industry has been transferred to Afghanistan. They now have alternatives for farmers. It took them at least eight to 10 years. It took Thailand about 20 years to get rid of drug cultivation.

    Q. Observers say that international security reinforcements must go hand-in-hand with fast-track reconstruction if the drug problem is ever to be resolved. What is your assessment?

    A. According to my understanding, the problem has three dimensions: first thing is stabilization of development and the spread of government power over all of the country, which is at the moment very weak. We have a weak army and police, judiciary system, severe corruption. When a criminal is caught either the prosecution or the judge will let him go. Under these circumstances it’s not possible to really do something. The second dimension is providing a growing alternative for farmers attractive enough not to grow opium. The third is the creating of a good public awareness campaign. It is vital that mullahs and other religious authorities tell people it is not right according (to Islam) to use drugs. These three aspects are interrelated. We are at the beginning and trying to do our best. But even if we do well with the first two dimensions and the third is not in order, we cannot succeed.

    Q. Is Afghanistan destined to become narco-state or is it just a matter of time before the situation improves?

    A. I’m sure it’s a matter of time because we had these possibilities in the past, when we were not an opium country. For example, in Herat, as long as (current Energy Minister) Ismail Khan was governor there were no poppies growing there. But as the power of the government has been reduced, it has also become an opium producing province. Even in Helmand years ago, there was a time when a time when one of the mujahedin commanders there was convinced not to cultivate opium and he did not. He then, through religious leaders, waged a campaign to convince people not to grow it. In one year growth plummeted. But then the next year, he was not paid the amounts he was supposed to be paid and he said ‘OK, go ahead and cultivate.’

    Q. With the twin flare-ups of the Taliban and drug production, how helpful has the United States really been in providing security assistance thus far?

    A. The U.S. has done very well in their efforts to help us. I can only say that we shall try to win the confidence of the people, but without that, even if we are the strongest possible militarily, it is not possible to establish security.

    By JASON MOTLAGH
    UPI Correspondent

  • JustOneMan

    Hey Jet….

    CNN – Bush’s poll numbers up

    Thanks Slick Willy!

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet In Columbus

    That’s nice… wear a sweater dear and get into your jammies, you’ve had a busy day sweetie.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Western nations must do more to crack down on the drug trade and corruption in Afghanistan, NATO’s commander said on Wednesday as the alliance prepared to assume security duties for the whole country.

    NATO troops have faced a surge of violence in the South and East of Afghanistan, the most intense since U.S.-led forces toppled the hardline Taliban Islamist government five years ago following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

    But U.S. Marine Gen. James Jones, NATO’s top operational commander, said efforts to rebuild the country and establish the rule of law posed the biggest challenge.

    “In my view, Afghanistan will not be resolved by military means,” he said in Washington.

    “I’m confident that we can take on any military challenge that there is and be successful, but the real challenge in Afghanistan … is how well the reconstruction mission, the international aid mission, is focused,” he said.

    “And on that score I think there is a requirement to do more, to bring more focus, more clarity, more purpose and more results in a shorter period of time,” he told an event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

    “Fundamentally, this is the exit strategy for Afghanistan,” he said.

    NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) already commands forces in the North, West and South of Afghanistan as well as in the capital Kabul. On Thursday it takes command of some 12,000 U.S. troops in the East.

    The U.S. troop transfer had been expected later in the year but alliance officials said battles with resurgent guerrillas in the South showed an urgent need to pool British, Dutch and Canadian troops under NATO with the U.S. forces.

    U.S. COMMAND

    Some 8,000 U.S. troops will remain under separate U.S. command, focusing on training Afghan security forces, counter-terrorism efforts and combat support roles.

    Jones said tackling Afghan opium production was vital and profits from the trade were funding Taliban guerrillas.

    The NATO mission, however, does not have a major role in tackling drugs. It is the responsibility of the Afghan government supported by Western civilian agencies.

    “The lead nation is the United Kingdom. There’s supposed to be a tremendous energy associated with this but it needs a fresh look because … we’re losing ground,” Jones said.

    A U.N. report last month said Afghan poppy cultivation would soar to a record level this year and yield 92 percent of the world’s supply of opium, the raw material for heroin.

    Jones also identified reform of the police and judiciary as areas in need of more attention.

    “There are 1,000 prosecutors in Afghanistan, they live on $65 a month. They cannot exist on $65 a month in Kabul. An interpreter for the United Nations makes about $630 a month,” he said.

    “There’s something backwards there and somebody needs to fix that. Interpreters are important but prosecutors who are not corrupt are even more important.”

    (Additional reporting by Will Dunham)

    By Andrew Gray
    Reuters
    Wednesday, October 4, 2006; 7:30 PM

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Well at least the cowardly lion has a good excuse for failure, it’s NATO’s fault… NATO took over command of U.S. troops in Afghanistan today, Bush was too busy doing more important things than to finish the war he started…

    …but of course that’s only my opinion!

    Jet

  • http://jetfireone.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus
  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Cute how CNN’s Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room is only now catching up to me on this.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Attention: I’d like everyone to investigate the right side menu. That button marked BC Forums….

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    THIS IS WHY WE’RE IN AFGHANISTAN-and why we never should’ve left before finishing the job!

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Can anyone read Arabic? I just found this article quoted on some government’s website (!!!)and would love to know what the top lines say

    Click here

  • http://bloggingontheedgeofsuicide.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    No one ever listens to me until it’s too late. REUTERS: In Afghanistan, Taliban militants also have profited from drugs. Global opium production reached 8,870 metric tonnes last year, with Afghanistan alone accounting for 92 percent of the world’s supply of the key ingredient for heroin.

    “In the southern areas, controlled by the Taliban, counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency must be fought together,” Costa said.

    Myanmar, the world’s second-biggest opium producer, also recorded an increase in opium poppy cultivation last year and was responsible