Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN Says Afghanistan's Fight Against Opium Trade Far From Over

The United Nations says it could take a generation to wipe out Afghanistan's massive illegal opium trade. In a new report, the U.N. says efforts to eradicate the country's illegal drug industry have achieved limited success. VOA's Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

The United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank issued a report Tuesday that details a series of challenges and setbacks in Afghanistan's fight against opium cultivation.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul Tuesday, the World Bank's William Byrd said recent enforcement efforts have unfairly targeted the country's poorest farmers while failing to prevent a sharp rise in opium production.

"One main reason is that however well intentioned they were, these efforts have had inadvertent negative side effects," he said. "Many poor people in Afghanistan have been made poorer and more dependent on the opium economy rather than less."

The new report also says widespread corruption has seriously weakened the Afghan government's anti-drug campaign.

Byrd says the wealthier producers pay bribes to avoid any penalties. As a result, he says, the public is losing faith in the government and its ability to implement new policies.

"This corruption has also inadvertently been a vehicle for the consolidation of the drug industry into fewer powerful actors with strong political connections," he said.

According to the U.N. drug survey, opium cultivation in Afghanistan grew by more than 50 percent this year. The country produces roughly 90 percent of the world's illegal opium supply.

The sharp rise has largely been confined to just a few provinces, primarily in southern Afghanistan.

Taleban-led insurgents have stepped up their attacks in the region and the violence has limited humanitarian and economic assistance to the area, which means farmers have few alternatives to growing opium.

The U.N.-World Bank report says effective eradication efforts will have to focus on long-term rural development.

U.N. officials say the best strategy is to provide new opportunities to farmers so they will not have to rely on opium production to support their families. But that, they say, will take time, and it could take decades before the country's war on drugs is successful.