The Afghanistan Government has launched a renewed eradication campaign, particularly in Halmand Province which accounted for 40 per cent of 2006's opium yield of 6,725 tons, to stem an estimated USD 3 billion economic activity. Several U.S. trained teams are using heavy plough equipment to rip up planted crops while trying to fight off a resurgent Taliban which uses narco trade to finance their operations. Afghanistan produces 90 per cent of the global opium supply.
While the results have not been extremely successful, counter-terrorism experts applaud the effort and say that the destruction will reduce the opium available to the Taliban. Anguished farmers whose crops have been destroyed blame the government for destroying their livelihood while not giving them other opportunities. They also say that with their livelihoods taken away, they are now at the mercy of the Taliban for alternative support.
The U.S. President George Bush has been pushing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to "gain confidence of his people" and "of the world" to "do something" about the opium production and promised to "help" him achieve the targets. The world has been watching with increased alarm the 59 per cent rise in opium cultivation in 407,700 acres and despite several independent warnings, not much was achieved to stop this trend. Afghan officials have been told not to slow or compromise their anti-narcotics action "with more determination" and warned that they could lose their jobs if they do not adhere to this policy. Even with these increased measures, experts say that while cultivation of opium will likely fall in north and northeastern areas, the south may continue to produce opium unhindered which is interestingly where the Taliban is also very active. While 8,900 acres of poppy fields have been destroyed last month, experts bemoan that the figure must have been 14 times that number or 123,550 acres and it is extremely unlikely that the target will be achieved.
Eradication officials are also facing ambushes, camouflaged bombs, and direct attacks in the south that are compromising these efforts. Farmers and local leaders cooperating with officials are also being targeted by the terrorists to deter the eradication efforts. Farmers also face imminent starvation since the lands that they own are arid and without any irrigation or market access are unable to grow anything other than opium which the Taliban buys in bulk and for cash. So, apart from protests and pelting with stones of officials, farmers also flood their fields so automated ploughs are unable to destroy their crops. It is also suspected that they actively assist the Taliban to ambush officials.