More than a decade after the West installed a new regime in Kabul and promised to stamp out Afghanistan's opium trade, it's no surprise that the authorities have not been able to eliminate the country's signature crop. But as poppy production reaches new heights, I got a wry smile out of officials' explanation for the latest boom:
Opium cultivation and production in Afghanistan reached record levels this year, United Nations officials said Wednesday, blaming at least part of the increase on politicians' need for campaign cash during the country's protracted election season.
"With the presidential election ongoing, there was a huge demand of funding and that funding is not available in the licit economy," said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, a senior official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
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