The Afghanistan province being patrolled by British troops will produce at least one third of the world's heroin this year, according to drug experts who are forecasting a harvest that is both a record for the country and embarrassing for the western funded war on narcotics.
"It's going to be massive," said one British drugs official. "My guess is it's going to be the biggest ever." UN, American and Afghan officials agreed.
The smuggling kingpins who control the £1.5bn trade have become rich, powerful and apparently untouchable. Although several hundred low-level couriers have been arrested, not one "big fish" has been tried in Afghanistan - a critical failing according to analysts.
American congressmen are ratcheting up pressure to start poppy eradication using pesticide-spraying planes, a controversial tactic. Aerial spraying ...is trenchantly opposed by British and Afghans officials, who say it would be disastrous in Afghanistan. "It could drive farmers into the hands of the insurgents," said one.
British commanders insists the 3,300 soldiers will avoid tackling drugs in favour of providing security and development funds. "We have to put the things in place that will make it no longer necessary to grow poppy," said a senior officer.
But an American official predicted that without a dramatic drop in next year's crop, spraying could lead to a UK-US rift by 2008. "Spraying will continue to be a cloud on the horizon and it will get darker," he said.
[D]rug experts say it will be impossible to avoid the drugs war. [T]he Taliban has developed close links to drug smugglers, sometimes providing them with weapons and vehicles.
-Excerpts From The Guardian