The United Nations Tuesday called on Afghan authorities to pull together to make “meaningful efforts” to combat drug production.
Afghanistan, which produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, has only seen “modest” success in the eradication of poppy fields, said Youri Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
President Hamid Karzai responded by saying that “Afghans get the blame while others get the benefit”, and it was not possible for Afghanistan to tackle the problem on its own.
The U.N. has said poppy-crop cultivation covered more than 131,000 hectares (323,000 acres) in 2011, up seven per cent from the previous year, while the overall crop increased by 61 per cent.
The value of the opium yield rose 133 percent from 2010, when plant diseases killed much of the Afghan crop. And the high price of opium meant poppy cultivation remained an attractive proposition for Afghan farmers.
“I’m trying to send messages to the authorities of Afghanistan that the work needs to be done by them, and not only by a few departments of the government but by all of them,” said Fedotov.
And he said falling levels of opium production should not just be the result of crop disease “but also of meaningful efforts of the government”, which should take an “integrated approach” to tackle the associated problems of money laundering and corruption.
Fedotov said up to 10,000 hectares of poppy fields were estimated to have been eradicated this year, more than three times the amount last year. But he said these successes were “still quite modest” and were yet to be verified by the UNODC.
Fedotov noted that the drugs trade involved international criminal groups, a point picked up by Karzai.
“The President said that Afghans get the blame while others get the benefit,” his office said in a statement.
“The President stressed that drug trafficking and international terrorism were inextricably linked and that most of those involved in the trafficking business are not Afghans.
“President Karzai emphasized that the political will to combat the scourge was there, but urged that it was not possible for one country to fight the menace on its own.”
According to the UNODC, farmer income derived from Afghanistan’s opium crop in 2011 was $1.4 billion, representing nine percent of GDP, providing considerable funding to the insurgency and fueling corruption.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has urged Afghanistan to make fighting drug trafficking a top priority.
With U.S.-led NATO combat troops due to pull out of the country by the end of 2014, there are fears drug trafficking across Afghan borders could grow.