Afghan opium breaks all records, U.S. says

Dec. 2, 2006 at 3:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Afghanistan's opium crop, which provides almost all the world's heroin, has broken all records despite U.S.-sponsored purge efforts, the White House says.

In addition to a 26 percent production increase over past year -- for a total of 5,644 metric tons -- the acreage used for opium poppies grew by 61 percent, the White House said.

Cultivation in the two main production provinces, Helmand and Oruzgan, was up by 132 percent.

White House drug policy chief John Walters called the news "disappointing."

U.S. military and intelligence officials increasingly describe Afghanistan's drug trade as a problem that in some ways exceeds that of the Taliban, The Washington Post reports.

Drug cartels with their own armies engage in regular combat with NATO forces in Afghanistan, NATO Spreme Allied Commander Gen. James L. Jones said.

"It would be wrong to say that this is just the Taliban. I think I need to set that record straight," he said.

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