The Taliban banning drug production in Afghanistan will create an international criss, an ex-drug dealer claims.
Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban told media in a press conference that he was saddened to see young Afghans addicted to drugs and they would end opium harvesting.
He said: "There will be no drug production, no drug smuggling. We saw today that our young people were on drugs near the walls; this was making me very, very sad that our youth are addicted.
"Afghanistan will not be a country of cultivation of opium anymore…. We will bring opium cultivation to zero again."
In the early 2000s, the Taliban successfully drove land used to cultivate opium poppy down from 82,000 hectares to 8,000.
Writing for The Independent, Niko Vorobyov, the author of Dopeworld: Adventures in the Global Drug Trade, explains how Afghanistan has been a heroin hotspot since the Soviet invasion of 1979.
It remains the producer of over 80% of the world’s heroin.
By outlawing opium the Taliban hope to improve their global image but because Afghanistan is so reliant on the cash it brings into the country, Vorobyov says it was previously economic suicide.
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In 2001, Tony Blair had soldiers destroying poppy farms to cut off the UK's heroin supply line which only turned desperate farmers against them.
"The Taliban would have to think long and hard whether they really want to alienate the poor, rural peasants on whose behalf they claim to act," former drug dealer Vorobyov says.
He adds that a new ban will create a global drugs "balloon effect" with other regions scrambling to cash in on the lucrative market.
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Vorobyov continues: "If the poppy fields vanish from Afghanistan, junkies will still need their medicine. It’s hard to say where from, exactly, but Myanmar (formerly the world’s chief heroin producer in the 1980s) has just witnessed a military coup that threatens to send it back to the bad old days, while Lebanon’s Bekaa valley benefits from lying closer to Europe and already being a major exporter of hash (as well as a heroin producer back in the ‘80s).
"The other scenario is hellishly worse."
He predicts that the popularity of the artificial opioid, fentanyl will dangerously dominate the market as the hit of choice.
The United States is already suffering from a fentanyl crisis with users overdosing on a mass scale because, unlike heroin, customers have no idea what strength they are taking.
Vorobyov adds: "After the Taliban’s opium ban in the early 2000s, a heroin drought in Estonia led underworld chemists to start manufacturing fentanyl, which has all but replaced heroin in drug dealers’ repertoires.
"Outside the small Baltic country, Europe’s largely managed to avoid the fentanyl crisis, partly because we’re well-supplied with Afghan heroin. But if that supply dries up, it won’t be long before someone finds a substitute.
"Afghanistan’s a complex situation but at least one thing is clear: no matter what happens, the drug business will not stop."
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