JURIST EXCLUSIVE – Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul offers his observations on the recent rise of drug cultivation in Afghanistan under the previous government and ambivalent Taliban policy on the drug trade. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding his name. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime released findings Tuesday noting an eight percent increase in the cultivation of drugs in Afghanistan.
The UN study, titled “Drug Situation in Afghanistan 2021: Latest findings and emerging threats” reveals that Afghanistan accounts for 85 percent of the world’s opium production in 2020.
According to 2021 estimates, this brings the opium dealers, primarily the Taliban, US $1.8-2.7 billion on an annual basis. The total value of opiates, including domestic consumption and exports, was estimated to be between 9-14 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP—a figure that exceeds the value of the nation’s legitimate exports of goods and services, estimated at nine percent of GDP.
Opium cultivation was one of Taliban’s largest sources of income during the past two decades. During its first regime in 90s, the Taliban permitted farmers to cultivate opium, established the needed processing facilities, and even hired individuals to smuggle it to Pakistan, Iran and India, among other countries.
The Taliban is yet to release any statement on how it plans to combat illegal drug trade in the country, although it has apprehended and detained addicts from cities such as Kabul, Mazar, Herat, among others, for unknown reasons.
The Taliban has been known to impose harsh punishments on relapsing addicts. According to local media reports, the Taliban killed four men in Ghor by setting them on fire a few days ago for using drugs. The men had apparently been taken to the hospital previously by the Taliban for treatment, but they relapsed after the treatment.