RealNews

Poppy Trade Blamed for Afghan Violence

A relief worker dies in an ambush on a blind curve up a steep mountain road. Around the bend is a poppy field, a prime suspect in a murder spree that’s bogging down Afghanistan’s rebuilding while its drug trade blooms. Aid groups are fleeing in terror. They blame much of their exodus from the southern third of the country on its $1.2 billion export drug crop, which purportedly finances Islamic extremist violence, ethnic blood feuds, warlord war chests, provincial property disputes and competing political movements. The agencies that monitor the pulse of conflict zones point to a rise in ambushes and execution-style slayings that coincide with the southeast’s autumn harvest of the opium-producing flora, nature’s gift to the world’s heroin junkies. “It’s absolutely true that security is worse in places where people are growing poppies,” said Diane Johnston, country director for Mercy Corps, which indefinitely suspended operations in the country last week. A member of the Omaha, Neb.-based group was killed Aug. 7. “Narcoterrorism” has become an increasingly entrenched factor in the violence that’s meant to keep southern and eastern Afghanistan — the world’s poppy belt — off-limits to outside assistance, said Paul Barker, country director for the charity CARE. Full Story

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