Taliban Just Banned Afghanistan's Biggest Cash Crop

After decades of financing the leaders, opium, other drugs get the boot
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2022 8:10 AM CDT
It Keeps Afghan Farmers Afloat. The Taliban Just Banned It
Afghan farmers harvest poppy in Nad Ali district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Abdul Khaliq)

(Newser) – The Taliban was in the restricting mood Sunday, banning opium poppy—which accounts for 80% of the world's supply of opium—along with wine, heroin, and other drugs. The Taliban has had an interesting relationship with opium, having repeatedly tried to ban the narcotic before using the crop to fund its 20-year insurgency, the New York Times reports. Upon claiming power in August, leaders signaled their tolerance would end, thereby satisfying a "major demand of the international community" on the path to reducing sanctions, per CNN.

But soon after, leaders said there were no immediate plans to intervene. Eying a window, many farmers took to growing the long-lasting crop as an investment amid harsh drought and economic crisis; with less supply, they figured, prices would climb. They were right: Prices have reportedly doubled in recent weeks, per CNN. That's excellent news in Kandahar province, home to a large part of the Taliban's supporter base, where "almost every farmer seems to have dedicated a portion of their plots to the crop," the Times reports. The expected announcement came, strategically, as the harvest was already begun.

"No one can try to cultivate the plant," Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, the prime minister's administrative deputy, read from the official decree issued by the Taliban's leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, during a press conference at the Ministry of Interior. "If someone violates this, his cultivation will be destroyed and the violator will be dealt with according to Islamic Law." As the Los Angeles Times reported in August, "the absence of Afghan opium and heroin, which mostly reaches users in Europe, Africa and Canada rather than the United States, could create a wider opening for highly potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl from China and India." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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