The US is pressing the Afghan government to stem its booming poppy crop with mass spraying following the biggest opium harvests in its history—which accounts for 91% of the world's production. Therein lies much of the resurgent Taliban's revenue, the New York Times reports, but Karzai fears a Taliban-inspired loss of popular support if he targets the opium trade.
The issue is dividing officials in both the Afghan government and Washington, especially as sprays pose the potential for health risks or destroying food crops planted with opium. “There has always been a need to balance the greater effectiveness of spray against the potential for losing hearts and minds,” said an assistant secretary of state for narcotics, who thought the proposition manageable. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)