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Taliban and Drugs

Despite its remote location and relatively small population of 23 million, Afghanistan is a major producer and exporter of heroin and is strategically important to countries such as Russia, Iran, Pakistan and the United States. CNN news sources estimates an annual export of $80 billion worth of heroin from Afghanistan where the Taliban are  virtually controlling about 95% of Afghanistan.
The United States government has cast a blind eye in response to the massacre of ethnic minorities in Afghanistan by the Taliban. One of the main reason being that the US government has struggled to resist a massive heroin influx from Afghanistan, and the Taliban have been less hostile to the U.S. then the preceding Afghan governments.




UNDCP conducts, with the approval of the local authorities, an annual ground-based survey, during which surveyors visit all the areas where opium poppy cultivation has been reported. Using a census methodology, they record the extent of opium grown in each region, opium yields and farmgate prices.

For more information contact: Sandro Tucci, Spokesperson, ODCCP Vienna; Telephone: 0043-1-26060 ext. 5629/4116/Fax: 0043-1-26060 ext.5875

UNDCP survey of drugs in Afghanistan - 1999

  • Afghanistan's total production of raw opium for 1999 was estimated to be a record 4,600 metric tons, according to the findings of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) Annual Opium Survey. This is more than double the estimated production of 2,100 metric tons for 1998.
  • areas under cultivation increased by 43 per cent from 64,000 hectares in 1998 to some 91,000 hectares in 1999; 97 per cent of cultivation in 1999 occurred in Taliban-controlled areas.
  • Cultivation of opium poppy was reported for the first time in the Jawzjan and Kunduz provinces bringing the total number of provinces where opium is grown to 18 out of the 31 in Afghanistan. The number of districts where opium was grown in 1999 increased to 104 from 73 in 1998; 80 per cent of the districts surveyed during the previous growing season experienced an increase in opium poppy cultivation this year.
  • Lower opium production was recorded in the Maiwand and Ghorak districts where the UNDCP is actively engaged in implementing an alternative development project. In these districts, as well as in the district of Khakrez, local authorities had reportedly eradicated 400 hectares of opium poppy in early June, following an agreement reached with UNDCP.
  • The total estimated production of illicit opium for 1999 was about 6,000 metric tons, an increase of some 60 per cent over the total of 3,750 metric tons recorded in 1998. Afghanistan's share in 1999 accounts for 75 per cent of global output, an increase of almost 25 per cent with respect to 1998.


UNDCP survey of drugs in Afghanistan - 1996

  • In a Survey done by Vienna-based United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), points out that Afghanistan's current yield of 2,200 to 2,300 (3,400 tones in 1994 dropped down because of bad weather, and falling prices) tonnes of dry opium is almost equal to the combined estimated opium production in the "Golden Triangle" (Lao's People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar (former Burma) and Thailand). The continuing sizable production in both sub regions is seen as having a significant impact on the worldwide abuse and trafficking of heroin.
  • Afghanistan has 55,000 to 58,000 hectares of opium poppy fields, with the provinces of Helmand and Nagarhar accounting for 73 % of the production. The estimated yield varies between 12 kilograms per hectare on rain-fed fields and 68 kilograms per hectare on the best irrigated fields, with a national average of 39.6 kilograms per hectare.
  • The Taliban  control nearly 95% of the area under opium poppy  cultivation.

Times Asia

  • According to United Nations, Afghanistan is currently the world's largest producer of illicit opiates, as well as the source of about 80% of Europe's heroin market and 15% to 20% of North America's.
  • The opium and and heroin manufactured from opium is officially taxed by Taliban, and generates at least $20 million a year in revenue (note. from tax only). Taliban officials argue, poppy cultivation is an economic necessity for the war-ravaged country's desperately poor farmers.
  • In 1997 the poppy cultivation  increased to 28,000 , an increase of 29% more than in 1996.

 Afghanistan Online

  • The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar (whom the Taliban call "Amir-ul Momineen" – the supreme leader of all the faithful in the world e.g. like the Pope in Catholicism), stated that the use of opium is wrong, but the selling is not wrong according to Islamic law. In reality, Islam forbids both the use of and selling of any type of illegal drugs, including opium.
  • Many of the Taliban are involved in this criminal trade. They include Haji Abdur Rahman Bakwalii from Nimroz, Mestiri Amrullah Helmandi, alias Mestiri Talib, Mullah Abdur Rahim Helmandi, Haji Bismillah Helmandi and Lal Mohammad, who serves as the Taliban commander in Nimroz province.
  • Mullah Yarana, a main Taliban official, lives in the Pakistani border town of Chaman and is involved in processing and smuggling heroin to the United States and Europe through Iran and Turkmenistan. Mullah Yarana's headquarters is basically a den of drug smugglers.

Afghanistan Drug Survey
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1998
Released by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs,
U.S.Department of State
Washington, DC, February 1999


1) United Nations - Press Release AFG/107 SOC/NAR/811 dated: 10 Sept, 1999
2) United Nations - Press Release SOC/NAR/746 dated: 26 Sept., 1996
3) Times Asia - The Taliban Drug Trade
4) Afghan Web - Afghanistan Related





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