After more than a decade of international efforts to combat the narcotics trade in Afghanistan—depriving the Taliban of funds in the process—the country is now producing more opium than ever before, a UN reports funds. The harvest this year resulted in a staggering 6,000 tons of opium, 49% higher than last year and more than the combined output of the rest of the world. Even Afghan provinces with some past successes in combating poppy cultivation saw those trends reversed, according to this year's UN Office on Drugs and Crime report.
The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan next year is likely to make matters even worse, warns the UNODC regional representative in Kabul. He warned that as international assistance falls off, the Afghan government will become increasingly reliant on illicit sources of income. Those who benefit from the drug trade include farmers, insurgents, and many within the government, often working together, he says. The vast majority of Afghanistan's poppy cultivation takes place in the south, southwest, and east—areas where the Taliban insurgency is thriving. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)