The Taliban says it is moving to ban opium production in Afghanistan in an effort to secure international recognition for the regime.
But will the world forget the previous 20 years the Taliban benefitted financially from the drug trade? The Taliban standardized and grew the opium industry to facilitate the financing of their insurgency. They recruited poppy farmers and taxed their crops, undermining U.S. and Afghan government efforts to destroy the drug trade.
Now, the Taliban is looking for legitimacy. At what cost will that legitimacy come?
Two decades of U.S. attempts to curb Afghanistan’s drug business have failed, partly due to the huge political cost of alienating Afghan farmers who depend on the poppy crops for their livelihoods.
Taliban attempts to do the same could undermine public support for the group and deprive its new administration of an important source of revenue at a time when Afghanistan is cut off from the global financial system and foreign aid.
An opium farmer in Kandahar, who attended a recent meeting between villagers and the Taliban, said in a phone interview that farmers were unhappy but would have no choice but to obey if the Taliban move to enforce the prohibition.
When the Taliban was in power prior to the U.S. invasion, they also banned opium production — at first. But after realizing the importance of the poppy crop to Afghanistan’s economy, they began to only punish users, not growers. But that ended in 2000, when the Taliban once again began to crack down on growers. They were seeking international recognition then, too. – READ MORE