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'High as a Kite' Wallabies Draw Circles in Poppy Fields

It raises concerns about crop safety in Tasmania

(Newser) - Crop circles popping up in Australia aren’t the work of extraterrestrial visitors, but of stoned wallabies, Livenews reports. Marsupials have been breaking into poppy fields—which supply 50% of the world’s opium to pharmaceuticals—and munching on the crops. Then, “high as a kite,” they spin... More »

Brits Grab $105M in Drugs From Afghan Taliban

Taliban drug factory found and destroyed in Helmand province

(Newser) - British troops have seized a huge stash of Taliban drugs after fierce fighting in Afghanistan, the Telegraph reports. Soldiers from the elite Black Watch squad discovered opium, heroin, and cannabis with a street value of some $105 million after attacking a Taliban drug factory in Helmand province. A number of... More »

US, Afghan Forces Kill 60 in Massive Taliban Drug Raid

(Newser) - US and Afghan forces seized a massive drug cache and and killed 60 militants in a four-day operation in Helmand province, Reuters reports. The troops scored more than 17 tons of morphine, opium, and heroin, along with 75 tons of poppy seeds, and caches of weapons and equipment, the military... More »

Karzai's Brother Threatened Me: US Reporter

Questions on alleged involvement in Afghan drug trade enrage him

(Newser) - It turns out Ahmed Wali Karzai is a bit touchy about his alleged ties to Afghanistan’s drug trade. When McClatchy reporter Tom Lasseter tried to interview the president’s brother about the allegations, he said they were part of a political plot against his brother. But when Lasseter began... More »

US Preps Plans to Take Out Taliban Poppy Crop

Offensive aims to cut off Afghan insurgency's financial lifeline

(Newser) - American commanders in Afghanistan are preparing a huge assault on the Taliban's opium-growing heartlands this summer, reports the New York Times. Taking out the opium crop is key to NATO strategy, and commanders expect casualties on both sides will be high as the militants stand their ground to defend the... More »

Pentagon to Send 30K New Troops to Afghanistan

Heartland strategy seeks to cut off Taliban's supply of fighters, drug money

(Newser) - US commanders are finalizing plans to beat back the resurgent Taliban with tens of thousands of extra American troops in Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reports. As part of Barack Obama's emerging strategy, reinforcements will be deployed in rural areas where Kabul's grip is weak, including along the border with... More »

NATO Chief OKs Attacks on Afghan Drug Producers

(Newser) - NATO's top commander has authorized coalition troops “to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan,” saying they “are inextricably linked to the Opposing Military Forces,” Der Spiegel reports. The order from US General John Craddock is not going over well with commanders on the ground.... More »

Taliban Stockpiles Surplus Opium

This year's crop was double global demand

(Newser) - The Taliban is stockpiling opium in Afghanistan, where high yields in recent years have led to a surplus, the UN drug office says. Poppy cultivation is less widespread than it once was, but the high yield offsets the contraction—and allowed the Taliban to make $300 million off opium last... More »

Afghans Hard-Pressed to Hold Gains in War on Opium

Corruption, other obstacles make cultivation of legitimate crops tough to maintain

(Newser) - Afghanistan’s second-largest opium-producing province has eradicated the drug, a remarkable feat but one that farmers fear is short-lived, the Christian Science Monitor reports. NATO-backed efforts in the country that makes 90% of Earth's opium have reduced poppy harvests, violence, and corruption nationwide. But to grow anything else, the region... More »

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

International agencies alarmed by 8,000 of tons of missing opium

(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... More »

NATO Troops Target Afghan Drug Lords

Troops given green light to attack industry that funds Taliban insurgents

(Newser) - NATO has given its troops permission to go after Afghanistan's drugs labs and opium kingpins, Agence France Presse reports. Some members of the alliance had been wary of targeting the industry, fearful of alienating farmers. But the Afghan government has given its blessing to attacks on the trade that puts... More »

UN Crackdown on Heroin Is Bleeding Taliban Dry

Hundreds of tons of chemicals seized

(Newser) - The UN has been quietly striking a major blow against the Taliban with a widely successful international attack on its heroin trade, Bloomberg reports. The campaign has seized several hundred tons of acetic anhydride bound for Afghanistan. Without the chemical, the Taliban can’t convert its poppy, which sells for... More »

Petraeus' Iraq Strategy Is Ill-Suited to Afghanistan

Counterinsurgency expert may need to learn a few new tricks to quell Taliban rebellion

(Newser) - Gen. David Petraeus faces an uphill battle in replicating the successes of the Iraq surge in Afghanistan, Michael Evans writes in the Times of London, “because the economic, social and political conditions are so different.” Afghanistan doesn’t have nearly the natural, fertile resources, and neither the US... More »

Taliban 'Narco Terrorist' Convicted in US Court

Afghan plotted to use drug profits to fight US

(Newser) - A Taliban militant has become the first person convicted under a "narco-terrorism" provision of the Patriot Act, Reuters reports. The Afghan man was busted by DEA agents for plotting to ship heroin to the US and use the proceeds to buy weapons to use against American and coalition forces.... More »

Marines Tread Lightly in Opium Poppy Fields

Fighters ignore Afghan crop to avoid alienating locals

(Newser) - The US Marines have been battling the Taliban in the world's largest opium-growing region—and they're taking care not to damage the crop, the AP reports. Troops in Afghanistan are aware that the Taliban makes millions from the poppy harvest, but they also realize that destroying the locals' only source... More »

Taliban Bombs Afghan Opium Task Force, Killing 18

41 wounded in attack as authorities target skyrocketing drug production

(Newser) - A suicide bomber struck a meeting today of an Afghan poppy-eradication team, CNN reports, killing at least 18, including 11 police officers and seven civilians. Another 41 were injured in the attack in the eastern Nangarhar province; authorities said the incident was further proof of the rebel Taliban's involvement with... More »

More Afghan Families Using Girls to Pay Debt

Farmers hit by crop woes give daughters as 'opium brides'

(Newser) - Besieged by debt, more Afghan farmers are paying lenders by handing over their girls as "loan brides," Newsweek reports. Often taken from their families forever, the girls—some younger than 5 years old—are commonly beaten or pushed to suicide by their fate. "My heart is still... More »

Afghan Deputy Governor, 5 Others Killed in Mosque Attack

Bombing comes amid 'failed state' warnings

(Newser) - A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed six people, including the deputy governor of the dangerous Helmand province, in an attack inside a mosque today. At least 11 others were injured in the explosion in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, a focus of reconstruction programs led by the British army,... More »

Afghans Facing Food Crisis

Minister pleads for wheat from international community

(Newser) - Afghanistan is facing a critical food shortage and is appealing to the world to send extra wheat, the BBC reports. "The situation is serious," warned the nation's commerce minister. Afghanistan relies on food imports, and the rising price of grain on world markets is triggering a national hardship.... More »

Military: Shift Troops to Afghan Front

As Iraq improves, Afghanistan unravels

(Newser) - The US military is calling for an accelerated withdrawal from Iraq and a shift of troops and equipment to Afghanistan, reports the Washington Post. The post-surge reduction of violence in Iraq has coincided with resurgent Taliban activity in Afghanistan; both NATO and US commanders there say they need several additional... More »

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