In Afghanistan, opium is at the heart of the Taliban regime

yoA year after the American defeat in Kabul, the “new” Taliban, now with undisputed power, left no illusions about the aggressive rigor of their ideology and the resulting moral order through daily repression. Admittedly, they constantly present themselves as being involved in the international fight against terrorism, due to the bloody conflict opposing them with the local branch of the Islamic State (ISIS). But they continue to maintain strong ties with al-Qaeda, whose leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a US raid on his residence in central Kabul.

However, there is a crucial dimension in which the “new” Taliban broke away from the practices of their predecessors, who controlled Kabul and the vast majority of Afghan territory from 1996 to 2001: it is the issue of poppies, which Mullah Omar had, cultivation was successfully banned in July 2000.

Fatwa forbidding

The poppy is planted in the fall so that in the spring the juice from the plant, from which opium is derived, is harvested. The fatwa of the “Commander of the Faithful”, as Mullah Omar declared himself, had an immediate effect on the entire territory of the Taliban, leading to the collapse of opium production in 2001, and consequently to the drying up of global heroin markets. , of which Afghanistan was already the main source.

The brutality of such a ban contributed no little to weakening the rural roots of the Taliban regime, as it could not resist the US-led offensive in October 2001 for more than a few weeks. The “new” Taliban contemplated a study of such a devastating ban on the peasant base in their movement. In the regions that gradually came under their control, they organized the taxation of poppy cultivation and the smuggling of opiates, without taking charge of the drug production chain themselves.

However, the most prominent drug lords continued to cooperate with the authorities in Kabul, then under the protection of the United States. As early as 2006, the United Nations was concerned about this “Afghanistan is transitioning from a drug economy to a drug state”. The historical record of 8,200 tons of opium produced in 2007 was beaten in 2017, with 9,000 tons, mainly sourced from government areas. Moreover, in the summer of 2021, the Taliban attack on the provinces richest in opium led to the fall of the Afghan capital. There is no longer any question, for the new masters of Kabul, of depriving themselves of astounding windfalls, while international sanctions and a severe drought have already plunged the countryside into permanent depression. According to the United Nations, the area under poppy cultivation for the 2020-2021 season is about 177,000 hectares, for an estimated opium production in 2021 of 6,800 tons, an increase of 8% compared to 2020. However, according to the United Nations, revenue from opiates is estimated in 2021 between 1.8 and $2.7 billion, or 6 to 11% of Afghanistan’s GDP.

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