National Geographic : 2011 Feb
Afghanistan become an opium exporter. At the request of the United Nations, which Afghani- stan joined in 1946, King Mohammad Zahir Shah temporarily halted cultivation. e subsis- tence poppy farmers of Badakhshan and Nan- garhar persuaded him to reverse his decision. In the meantime the crops for which Afghan farm- ers achieved renown were pistachios, almonds, pomegranates, cotton, and grapes. So it was, until the Soviet invasion of Decem- ber 1979 upended Afghanistan's landscape. e new occupiers closed o the markets for several of the country's fruits and shut down the cotton gins so as to bene t Uzbekistan's exports. e ensuing decade-long war between the Soviets and the U.S.-backed mujahideen claimed farm- to-market roads, irrigation canals, silos, and food processing factories among its victims. Afghanistan's agriculture was ruined. Between the U.S.S.R.'s withdrawal in 1989 and the Taliban's emergence in 1994, the country descended into chaos as warlords competed for power. Afghan farmers, struggling to regain their standing in the marketplace, discovered that India and Paki- stan had developed their own products and were no longer interested in importing Afghanistan's. ose countries had succeeded in cracking down on their own opium production---and drug smugglers began to eye new pockets of instabil- ity where illegal tra cking could thrive. Oper- atives from Pakistan showed up in Nangarhar, then Badakhshan, then the southern province of Helmand. As agricultural consultant Jonathan Greenham describes his work in Pakistan to eradicate its opium production, "We just pushed the problem across the border." ese are among the reasons Afghanistan's share of worldwide opium production sky- rocketed from 19 percent in 1986 to 90 percent two decades later. e greatest factor, however, was the Taliban. When it rst came to power in 1996, the new Islamist government garnered support from tribal leaders by agreeing not to crack down on poppy cultivation. e supreme past ve years. Only one in ten addicts receives any drug treatment, because programs are rare and underfunded. At the 40-bed Jangalak center, also in the capital, recovering addicts celebrate a er a two-month rehabilitation program.