Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Media soft-pedals Afghan government's role in opium boom

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime's latest report on opium cultivation in Afghanistan has caused a minor splash in the Western media. (Click here for full report in pdf.) The UNODC found that opium production is at a record high level, having doubled in the past two years, and that Afghanistan supplies some 92% of the world's heroin.

What isn't getting attention in this context is the fact that many members of the Afghan government are complicit in the opium and heroin trade. (Even president Karzai's brother is said by many to be a major drug kingpin.) The UNODC itself makes passing mention of this fact, noting the Karzai government's "benign tolerance of corruption" and "tacit acceptance of opium trafficking by foreign military forces" (see page vi). The UN agency's director, meanwhile, is quoted by an AP report as saying there is a "tremendous amount of collusion" between traffickers and government officials. (Of course, this tidbit doesn't make the headlines.)

For a little background, see Arthur Kent's article "Karzai and allies continue to shield heroin kingpins".

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