In 2000, the Taliban government under advice from the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) imposed a total ban on opium production. Prior to the ban, according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Afghanistan produced more than 70% of the world's opium in 2000, and about 80% of opiate products (meaning heroin) destined to the European market.1
The annual proceeds of the Afghan Golden Crescent drug trade (between 100 and 200 billion dollars) represented approximately one third of the worldwide annual turnover of narcotics, estimated by the United Nations to be of the order of $500 billion.2
In many regards, the trade in narcotics as well as the drug routes to the European and North American markets are considered to be "strategic". There are powerful financial interests behind the drug trade, which have a pervasive influence, behind the scenes, on the conduct of US foreign policy.
These multibillion dollar revenues of narcotics were deposited in the Western banking system. Most of the large international banks -together with their affiliates in the offshore banking havens-laundered large amounts of narco-dollars. In other words, Afghanistan, the poorest country on earth, was the source of tremendous financial wealth derived from the drug trade to financial institutions, business syndicates and organised crime. Part of the drug related revenues accrue to the CIA, which continues to protect both the Asian and Latin American drug trade. Visibly, only a very small percentage of these revenues stays in Afghanistan. .
Following the year 2000 ban on poppy production imposed by the Taliban government, opium production collapsed by more than 90 percent, leading to a dwindling drug trade and substantial losses to the inters underlying this multibillion dollar trade including Western financial institutions.3 The Northern Alliance became the main political force involved in protecting the production and marketing of raw opium.
The Drug Trade Restored by the US Puppet Regime
While oil and oil pipelines out of the Caspian sea basin were undoubtedly a factor, the bombing of Afghanistan also served to restore the multibillion drug trade, which is protected by the CIA.
Immediately following the installation of the US puppet government under Prime Minister Hamid Kharzai, opium production soared, regaining its historic levels. According to the UNDCP, opium cultivation increased by 657 % in 2002 (in relation to its 2001 level). In 2001, opium cultivation had fallen to an estimated 7606ha.(See table below). It is currently estimated by the UNDCP to be of the order of 45 000 -65 000ha.
In the immediate wake of September 11, the price of opium in Afghanistan increased three-fold. By early 2002, the price (dollar/kg) was almost ten times higher than in the year 2000.4
Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan
Year Cultivation in hectares
1994 71 470
1995 53 759
1996 56 824
1997 58 416
1998 63 674
1999 90 983
2000 82 172
2002* 45 000 - 65 000
UNCDP, Afghanistan, Opium Poppy Survey, 2001, http://www.undcp.org/pakistan/report_2001-10-16_1.pdf .
UNDCP, Afghanistan, Opium Poppy Survey, Pre-Assessment, 2002, http://www.undcp.org/pakistan/report_2002-02-28_1.pdf
* Preliminary estimate
1. BBC, Afghanistan's Opium Industry, 9 April 2002.
2. Douglas Keh, Drug Money in a Changing World, Technical document no 4, 1998, Vienna UNDCP, p. 4. See also United Nations Drug Control Programme, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1999, E/INCB/1999/1 United Nations, Vienna 1999, p 49-51, and Richard Lapper, UN Fears Growth of Heroin Trade, Financial Times, 24 February 2000.
3. UNDCP, Afghanistan, Opium Poppy Survey, 2001, http://www.undcp.org/pakistan/report_2001-10-16_1.pdf ,
4 UNDCP, Afghanistan, Opium Poppy survey, Pre-Assessment, 2002, http://www.undcp.org/pakistan/report_2002-02-28_1.pdf
Copyright © Michel Chossudovsky, Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) 2002. All rights reserved.
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