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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- President Hamid Karzai's office said Sunday that there is "serious debate" among some Taliban fighters about laying down arms, while a spokesman for the militants said they will "never" negotiate with Afghan authorities until foreign troops leave.
"Of particular worry is the Taliban's involvement in the drug trade. Drug profits now support elements of the Taliban and fund attacks on U.S. and NATO forces. While counter-narcotics efforts intensified last year, results to date are insufficient. More must be done."
A new United Nations report warns that one reason opium production in Afghanistan could rise again this year is because the Taliban are using it to fund their terrorist activities. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U-N Office on Drugs and Crime, said that "the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorism and terrorists supporting drug traffickers is stronger than ever" in southern Afghanistan, with "a pronounced divide" between the south and the more stable center and north. This means, he said, that opium cultivation in southern Afghanistan is less a narcotics issue and "more a matter of insurgency, so it is vital to fight them both together."
U.N. drug control officers said the Taliban religious militia has virtually wiped out opium production in Afghanistan ¡ª once the world's largest producer ¡ª since banning poppy cultivation in July.
A 12-member team from the U.N. Drug Control Program spent two weeks searching most of the nation's largest opium-producing areas and found so few poppies that they do not expect any opium to come out of Afghanistan this year.
The Taliban had distributed leaflets at night, inviting farmers to increase their poppy cultivation in exchange for protection, Mr. Costa said. The rebels also profit from levies in return for protection of drug convoys passing through the border areas they controlled.
There were also signs of a pernicious strategy to encourage farmers to increase poppy cultivation in an effort to force a government reaction, which would then turn the population further against the government, Mr. Costa said.
But he did not blame only the Taliban for the increase. He specifically accused the former governor of Helmand Province, Sher Muhammad Akhund, of encouraging farmers to grow more poppies in the months before he was removed from office. The result was an increase of 160 percent in that “villain province” from its harvest last year, he said, the highest rise in the country.
If we are in Iraq for the oil, can you please provide evidence that Iraq oil is currently flowing to us? Particularly in any quantities or as we are there for it, perhaps at a discount?