WASHINGTON: Taliban 's earnings from drug is rising despite heavy US spending to control it and is seen as the most troubling turns yet in the fight against militants in Afghanistan, a New York Times report said on Sunday, as officials fear rise in production as Taliban make advances in opium growing areas.
The US has spent $8 billion alone to control the production in the country, which is a main supply of narcotics to the West and the United States, but the efforts have failed as Afghanistan's share in the global opium remains consistent at 85 percent.
According to the report, officials and diplomats are watching with growing worries the proliferation of heroin labs across the country. For many years, most of the produce would smuggled out in the form of bulk opium syrup, but now at least half of the total production is being refined in the country.
The refining makes the drug much easier to smuggle out into the supply lines to the West, the report said adding that this was contributing to rising profits for the Taliban who are now making 60 percent of their money from the drug trade.
Afghan President has recently admitted drug production as a very important driver of the insurgency and without which, he said, the war would have been over long.
Prospects are rising for Taliban to make more money from the drug as they have been aggressively taking control of opium-producing regions from the government, the report said, which would make Taliban less attractive towards negotiating peace with the government.
If an illiterate local Taliban commander in Helmand makes a million dollars a month now, what does he gain in time of peace?ť the report said quoting an unnamed senior Afghan official.
Another official, Gen. Abdul Khalil Bakhtiar , Afghanistan's deputy interior minister in charge of the counter-narcotics police, told the newspaper that Taliban have set up more labs during the past two years.
He estimated that between 400 to 500 labs in the country in the areas mostly controlled by Taliban . Afghan forces have destroyed over 100 labs but Gen. Bakhtiar admitted that Taliban can build such labs in one day.
Taliban have denied processing heroin and that major laboratories existed in areas under their control.
The report said that while Taliban made money by taxing producers and smugglers, they were now directly getting into the business. According to an estimated, the opium economy grew to about $3 billion last year, that was almost double from the year preceding to that. The drug economy is about 16 percent of the country's GDP.
The report quoting the State Department figures said that 90 percent of the heroin in Canada and 85 percent in Britain could be traced to Afghanistan.
Only a force of 450 to 600 officials of the Afghan's National Interdiction Unit, which is mentored by American Special Forces, are bearing the responsibility of fighting drugs.
There are other indicators that more opium is being processed within Afghanistan, the report said quoting officials say, including data from the drug seizures and the amount of chemicals needed for the processing.
In previous years, the amount of opium seized in Afghanistan would far outnumber, by at least five times, the processed morphine and heroin. In 2015, for example, about 30,000 kilograms, or 66,000 pounds, of opium was sized, compared with a little over 5,000 kilograms, or 11,000 pounds, of heroin and morphine combined.ť
So far in 2017, the report said, the seizure numbers seem flipped and the amount of heroin and morphine, both requiring some level of processing, combined is almost double that of opium. 1111 If the initial data is any indication, the 2017 poppy harvest was another record year, the report said quoting Afghan officials say.