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U.S. Report Finds Declines in Opium in Afghanistan

A report released today by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) found that opium production in Afghanistan declined by 31 percent in 2008. The report also found that opium cultivation experienced a similar drop of 22 percent.

According to the 2008 U.S. Afghanistan Poppy Cultivation and Opium Production Estimate, opium production reached 5,500 metric tons in 2008, down from 8,000 metric tons in 2007. Additionally, poppy cultivation fell to 157,000 hectares in 2008, a decrease from the 202,000 hectares cultivated in 2007. The report declared that the number of provinces that are now poppy-free increased from 15 in 2007 to 18 in 2008 (of 34 provinces), and that opium poppy cultivation has all but been eradicated in most of Afghanistan’s North and East.

In remarks alongside ONDCP Director John Walters, Mr. Ashraf Haidari, Political Counselor at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., expressed Afghanistan’s gratitude for the assistance of the U.S. and other international partners in fighting drugs and called for a continued international commitment. “Eliminating drugs is a task that Afghanistan cannot do alone, but together with our allies and those who join us in the belief that narcotics is a common enemy of the international community—one that takes millions of young lives across the world every year, one that causes HIV/AIDS, one that finances urban violence and crime, and one that increasingly fuels global terrorism and funds the Taliban’s brutal terrorist activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he remarked.

Mr. Haidari also noted that fighting drugs in Afghanistan requires a multifaceted approach. “President Hamid Karzai has said many times, ‘If we do not eliminate drugs, drugs will eliminate us.’ In the Afghan context, we strongly believe that the best weapon against narcotics is gradual but steady prevention in the form of improved governance and rule of law, sustainable alternative development assistance, and increased security,” he stated.

A report released in August 2008 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) similarly found that cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan fell relative to prior years. The report also noted that strong leadership by governors and other local officials helped spur the drops in cultivation and production. Using campaigns against cultivation, peer pressure and alternative development programs, a number of provinces were able to post significant declines. Nangarhar province saw dramatic improvements, going from the second province in terms of cultivation in 2007 to being declared poppy-free in 2008. Currently the majority of Afghanistan's opium cultivation and production is limited to seven south-western provinces.

Additional News:

Opium Cultivation and Production in Afghanistan Declines - UN Report

Additional Resources:

Afghanistan Poppy Cultivation and Opium Production Estimate (Press Release) (Map)

Remarks by Mr. Ashraf Haidari, Political Counselor, Embassy of Afghanistan (Full Text)

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