U.S.-allied forces may be pushing back against a resurgence by the Taliban in Afghanistan, but the drug war there is losing ground. A new United Nations drug report says that Afghanistan’s production of opium--the raw material for heroin--increased nearly 50 percent to 6,700 tons in 2006 from 4,500 tons in 2005. In 2006, Afghanistan accounted for 92 percent of global illicit opium production, due to increased cultivation and to rising crop yields, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
The numbers in the report are dramatic evidence of the failure of efforts to curtail opium cultivation, particularly in the insurgency-plagued southern Helmand province, where the drug trade helps finance Taliban fighters.
Often overlooked in the reporting has been a rise in heroin addiction in the neighboring countries, Iran and Pakistan, that are key transit routes for drug trafficking.
And, U.S. News Senior Editor Anna Mulrine found, the addiction problem is also hitting Afghan women in a town close to the Iranian border. Her complete report is available in "The Drug Trade’s Collateral Damage."