$3.2B Opium Stash May Be Taliban's Secret Weapon

International agencies alarmed by 8,000 of tons of missing opium
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2008 4:57 AM CDT
Afghan border policemen view confiscated opium and alcoholic drinks on the outskirts of Herat city in Afghanistan last year.   (AP Photo/ Fraidoon Pooyaa, File)
camera-icon View 4 more images

(Newser) – A huge pile of missing opium has international law enforcement agencies worried, Time reports. The UN estimates up to 8,000 tons of opium—enough to supply every addict in the world for two years—have disappeared between Afghanistan's poppy fields and the world market in recent years. Experts fear the Taliban is building a mammoth stockpile of the drug.

The Taliban is thought to be holding back some opium to keep prices up, but opium is steadily losing value as addiction levels fall, making the stockpile more mysterious—and for many, more alarming. "Who would have reasons to hold on to a devalued stock? People who have mischief in mind," said the head of the UN's drug office, who described the missing opium as "a time bomb."