The United Nations has published a report on Afghanistan’s opium industry, warning that a “perfect storm of drugs and terrorism…may be heading towards central Asia.”
It says the equivalent of 3,500 tons of opium are smuggled out of Afghanistan every year, while less than two percent is seized by the authorities.
About two-thirds of the opium paste made from poppies is turned into heroin in the country, the rest being exported as opium.
Europe is the biggest overseas market, followed closely by Russia and Iran, which is grappling with an epidemic, particularly among young people. 42 percent of the world’s opium users are in Iran.
The profits from the trade are being split between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, fuelling their war machines and funding insurgencies and terrorism worldwide.
However the lion’s share of the 43.5 billion euro annual market goes to organised crime outside Afghanistan.
The UN Security Council has demanded the drug barons be prevented from travelling and have their assets seized, but this has not happened.
An estimated 12,000 tons of opium is stockpiled in Afghanistan, enough to supply the world for more than two years, and crop eradication campaigns are only having limited success.