Since US military occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, followed by NATO occupation in 2003, opium production has increased exponentially. Areas under Taliban control had zero production in 2001.

Afghanistan is ever since divided into six regions comprised of administrative provinces: North-eastern (Kundaz, Takhar, Badakhshan), Eastern (Nuristan, Kunar, Kapisa, Laghman, Nangarhar), Central (Panjshin, Parwan, Wardak, Ghazni, Paktika, Khost, Paktya, Logar, Kabul), Northern (Balkh, Jawzjan, Faryab, Samangan, Sari Pul, Bamyan, Baghlan), Western (Ghor, Hirat, Farah, Nimroz, Badghis), and Southern (Hilmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, Day Kundi).

The capital-city, Kabul, is located in the province of Kabul in the Eastern region.

The highest percentage of opium poppy cultivation harvested are located in the Western provinces of Ghor, Hirat, Farah, Nimroz, and Badghis. Also, high opium poppy cultivation occurred in the Southern provinces of Hilmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, and Day Kundi. The increase in production is mainly a result of an increase in area under opium poppy cultivation. These areas under opium poppy cultivation are controlled by United States and NATO military forces.

Afghani provinces with zero production between 2016-2017: North-eastern provinces of Kundaz, Takhar. The Central provinces of Panjshin, Parwan, Wardak, Logar, Paktika, Paktya, and Khost. And the Northern province of Bamyan.

Geographically, Afghanistan is divided between climates, with the best climate for opium poppy production found in the Western and Southern provinces. The Western provinces has Warm Mediterranean climate, Warm semi-arid climate, and Warm desert climate, and the Southern provinces climate is separated between Warm desert climate, Warm Mediterranean climate, and Cold desert climate.

The increase in production is mainly a result of an increase in area under opium poppy cultivation.

"In 2002, farmers took advantage of the power vacuum following the US invasion and returned to planting poppy as a cash crop. According to the UN's opium production report from 2002, poppy cultivation was down to approximately 8,000 hectares in 2001, then surged to roughly 74,000 hectares after the fall of the Taliban" (Rawlings, 2013).

The difference between increased production of opium poppy and zero production of opium poppy between provinces has to do with the presence of NATO forces verses the presence of Taliban forces. Islam prohibits drug use and the Taliban are strict prohibitionists of poppy production, destroying crops where Taliban are located, resulting in zero opium production. NATO forces work to keep the Taliban from destroying opium crops, resulting in high opium crop production:

"The United States invaded Afghanistan largely to restore the heroin industry and it is now making about $1.5 trillion every year from this business" (Press TV, 2017).

"The heroin business is not 'filling the coffers' of the Taliban, as claimed by US government and the international community: quite the opposite! The proceeds of this illegal trade are the source of wealth formation, largely reaped by powerful business/criminal interests within the Western countries. [...] Decision-making in the US State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon is instrumental in supporting this highly profitable multibillion dollar trade, third in commodity value after oil and the arms trade" (Chossudovsky, 2005).

NATO forces located in areas of zero opium production do not engage with Taliban forces. Italy, for example, is known to pay Taliban forces to not attack Italian NATO patrols. Also, several NATO countries rotate between provinces, so one year a province may have some opium production under the flag of one NATO country, then the next year opium production falls to zero under the flag of the next NATO nation that rotates in. The process is called Push down pop up; as one NATO nation along with provincial government forces attempt to suppress opium poppy production in one area, weak border security in other provinces create opportunity for opium poppy production to increase in areas with less NATO oversight.

Decrease and zero production of opium poppy also appear in areas where Afghanistan government has confidence of the local population, where government provides incentives to farmers to eradicate their opium crop or not produce one at all. To rebuild Afghanistan, sixty percent of aid for projects is funded through private NGO. These organisations consist of private contractors working towards the donors agenda.

The economy of Afghanistan is based on several key industries: NGO, Drugs, and Agriculture. Although, the US has spent about $8.6 billion on counter-narcotics efforts since the invasion, the border security surrounding Afghanistan remained porous, providing opportunities for the illegal trafficking.

Drug-production in Afghanistan

Environmental Systems Research
— October 5, 2018


Jake Whittenberg
Busting up a heroin camp,
with no arrests.