Afghanistan: December 7, 1999


The Taliban government of Afghanistan has become the world's largest producer of heroin, according to new UN figures. Afghanistan produces 3/4 of the world's opium, with 96% of this coming from Taliban-controlled areas. The Taliban government has set up model farms in Herat and brings in farmers from across the country to show them the best way to cultivate opium poppies. Taliban collects a 20% tax on all opium and heroin sales. (The Alliance government in northern Afghanistan collects the same tax.) The only functional banking system in Afghanistan is the one that the drug smugglers run to pay farmers advances against their next crop of poppies. Osama bin Laden finances most of his operations through opium production and sales. Chinese officials report that smuggled Afghan drugs are funding the Uighur separatist movement. Uzbekistan reports that smuggled Afghan drugs are funding the radical separatist groups in the Ferghana Valley. There are now five million heroin addicts in Pakistan, three million in Iran, and one million in the Xinjiang province of China. All get their heroin from Afghanistan.--Stephen V Cole


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