Taliban Drug Control Was
'Most Effective In Modern Times'

By Peter Apps

LONDON (Reuters) - The Taliban's attack on Afghan heroin production was the "most effective" drug control policy of modern times but production soared again after the regime was ousted, researchers said Monday.
A study showed that a Taliban crackdown in 2001 led to global heroin production falling by two-thirds, said criminologist Professor Graham Farrow of Loughborough University, with production in Taliban-controlled areas falling 99 percent.
"The threat of punishment was the main thing," said Farrow, who analyzed UN figures to produce his research. "There were rumors that the suppression was brutal, although we found it difficult to get first hand evidence."
After the Taliban were ousted by U.S. forces in late 2001 in response to their cooperation with the Al Qaeda September 11 attackers, farmers returned to growing opium poppies because they were a more lucrative crop, Farrow told Reuters.
Afghanistan once again became the world's largest exporter of heroin, manufactured from the poppies, he said.
In November, U.S. figures showed that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2003 was 36 times higher than in the year before the Taliban fell.
"This is speculation, but it may be because a crackdown would be too unpopular for the new Afghan government," Farrow said.
The Taliban crackdown was enforced by community leaders, who were themselves punished if drug crops were grown in their area, Farrow added.
It was difficult to draw many lessons from the example, he said, because such measures were not acceptable to western countries.
"In free democratic society, harsh corporal punishment for relatively minor drug crimes is not something we want to recommend," he said.
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