As the planting season for Afghanistan's opium poppies gets under way, the government is cracking down on cultivation of the illegal plant.

Fifteen teams of Afghan anti-narcotics agents set out from the capital, Kabul, the latest move in the government's efforts to curb opium production in the world's largest producer of narcotics.

As Deputy Interior Minister General Mohammed Daud Daud explains, the teams will inspect poppy eradication programs in the provinces.

General Daud says the teams will check whether provincial authorities are complying with the central government's anti-narcotics program and will help troubleshoot problems.

In its effort to stamp out poppy cultivation, the Afghan government has handed responsibility for eradicating crops to provincial authorities. In meetings earlier this year with the central government, provincial governors and security forces worked out programs to deal with the problem.

General Daud says Kabul will help the provinces with law enforcement by providing intelligence such as satellite photos of fields where poppies are thought to be grown.

The current group of inspection teams will focus on the provinces that produce the bulk of Afghanistan's opium, such as Helmand in the south.

In some northern provinces, snow still covers the fields - and the government plans to send additional inspection teams to those areas once the planting season starts there.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says stamping out opium, which is estimated to make up a third of Afghanistan's gross national product, is a top priority for his administration. The opium is used to make the addictive narcotic heroin, which is illegally smuggled around the world.

But he adds that the country's narcotics industry is the result of decades of war and a lack of concern from the international community.

"The desperation of the Afghan people forced the Afghan nation to grow poppies," Mr. Karzai said. "Therefore, Afghanistan is the victim. Afghanistan cannot be blamed. Afghanistan is the victim like it was the victim of war."

He says the international community must continue helping Afghanistan reduce opium cultivation.

Experts believe that most of the heroin used in Europe comes from Afghan poppies.