Under the bridges of Kabul it has taken two months to realize the arrival of the ’emirate’. An army of drug addicts survives on the banks of the river that runs through the capital in subhuman conditions. Lying in the trash, squatting while preparing the dose, they are in full view, but no one wants to see them. The Taliban have inherited weapons and vehicles from the previous government, but also problems such as the growing addiction to heroin and crystal (methamphetamine) and are trying to tackle it with a heavy hand. These problems grew during his tenure in the shade in large areas of the south where they converted the cultivation of poppies – from where they extract opium gum that is refined into morphine and heroin.
and its traffic abroad its main source of income.
Consumption has skyrocketed in the country and the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) confirms that “the increase in drug addiction has followed the same hyperbolic pattern of opium production ‘. Data from the international organization show that in Afghanistan there are more than a million addicts (aged 15 to 64 years), which represents eight percent of the population, a rate that is double the world average.
Since coming to power on August 15, Islamists have deployed special patrols that are in charge of forcibly detaining drug addicts to send them to detoxification centers such as the Avicenna Hospital, an American base converted into a medical center since 2016 with a capacity for a thousand patients. The doctor Waheedullah Koshan He told the Associated Press (AP) that the shock treatment in this place lasts 45 days, but regretted that they lack the alternative opiates such as methadone, which are normally used to treat these addictions. Another added problem, and shared by all medical centers linked to the Ministry of Health, is that the staff has not been paid since July.
The images captured by the cameras of agencies such as the AP have exposed the underworld of drug addiction in Kabul and the inflexible methods applied by the Taliban to treat patients who look like real ghosts.
From opium to glass
That Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium is no secret (it generates 80 percent of world traffic), what has been a revolution in recent years is the boom in the production of crystalline methamphetamine. A 2020 report from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) he warns that methamphetamine could soon catch up with the opium trade as ephedra, its key component, is a plant that grows wild across vast areas of the country. According to the EMCDDA, more than 300 illegal laboratories operate in the country.
“After three decades marked by the trauma of war, the unlimited availability of cheap narcotics and limited access to treatment have created a significant and growing addiction problem in Afghanistan,” he says. Antonio Maria Costa, director of UNODC, in a recent agency report. Costa invites the international community to “support Afghanistan’s efforts to stop opium cultivation”, but without forgetting the “700,000 Afghan addicts without access to detoxification treatment.”
The largest poppy cultivation areas are Helmand y Kandahar, which are also the two great strongholds of the Taliban. During the 20 years of international mission, the United Kingdom and the United States were deployed in these provinces, but the eradication policies were a failure and in cases like Helmand’s they turned into corruption scandals.
Opium and insurgency have gone hand in hand since the time of the jihad against the Soviet UnionAt the time, Moscow accused the CIA of favoring drug trafficking to finance the ‘holy war’. The only one capable of stopping the cultivation in its tracks was Mullah Omar, the top Taliban leader, through a fatwa issued in 2000 that declared poppy cultivation ‘anti-Islamic’, but the halt barely lasted a harvest and later the Taliban they made taxes on opium cultivation and trafficking their main source of income. It is a mystery to know what will happen in this new ’emirate’ of the 21st century, but it seems clear that the Taliban do not want addicts on their streets.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism