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Gangs and Militants Drive Booming Drug Industry in Afghanistan

Afghanistan continues to grab headlines, but this time it is not due to the ongoing conflicts within its borders, but the flourishing crops that support the global illegal drug trade.

A recent news report highlighted a new U.N. survey, showing Afghanistan not only as the world’s top opium producer, but also as the top global producer of Hashish, surpassing Morocco for the title.

This survey points to the international concern surrounding Afghanistan’s drug cultivation. The nation is not the world’s largest producer of cannabis in terms of acreage, but it still tops the list when it comes to producing hashish from the crop. The nation’s farmers produce between 1,500 and 3,500 tons of hashish each year.

"We see generally throughout the country, farmers in areas not in the south of the country are turning to alternatives, because they know that growing these illicit crops is illegal," said Walter Kemp, U.N, drugs office spokesman. "Slowly, slowly, development assistance is coming through. The government and provincial governors are able to enforce the law better. International forces are also having their impact."

While corruption and violence surrounds the drug industry, it can be lucrative for farmers to support this industry, which amounts to roughly $3-billion a year. The industry is controlled by gangs and militants and narcotics are smuggled through central Asian and Balkans routes and end up for sale in Russia, Western Europe and Asia.

The industry itself is only part of the problem in Afghanistan. As Kemp notes, there is also serious concerns about the level of drug addiction among the Afghan population.

"The indications are that it is a serious problem in terms of opium consumption and also cannabis," he said. "But we will only have the hard data in the next few months."

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