Taliban destroy poppy fields in raids on Afghan opium growers

Taliban fighters have destroyed fields of opium poppies in eastern Afghanistan this spring, the first time since 2001 the hardline Islamist group is known to have clamped down on the cultivation of a drug that provides a big part of its funding.

While the insurgents appear to have dug up a relatively small area of poppies in a remote area near the border with Pakistan, the move was so unusual it won a chorus of praise from the Afghan government and international organisations, whom the Taliban consider their enemy, as well as senior clerics.

“They just did what the constitution ordered,” said Wasifullah Wasifi, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Kunar, where the eradication took place…

The country representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, confirmed that the Taliban had uprooted poppy fields in Kunar, and said he hoped the “rare event” might presage a stronger approach to controlling drug production…

Afghanistan has for years produced the vast majority of the world’s opium, with only a brief break in 2001 when the Taliban government, which had previously relied on the crop to bolster its coffers, unexpectedly dug up most of the country’s poppy fields.

But opium production has flourished since the group was toppled by US-backed forces in 2001, even though it has been widely condemned by clerics as un-Islamic…

Funds flow to insurgents and corrupt members of the government. The crop can also be a key source of income for poor farmers, who insurgents sometimes rely on for food, shelter, recruits or other support.

RTFA for lots of anecdotal description. It ain’t a big deal [yet] in terms of quantity. Politically, it’s startling our military “experts”.

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