The last time the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the poppy fields flourished. In 1999, three years after the group established its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the country’s total production of raw opium was estimated to have hit nearly 4,600 metric tons — more than double the amount for the year before.
“Afghanistan will not be a country of cultivation of opium anymore,” Mujahid said during a news conference on Aug. 17, two days after the group seized the Afghan capital.
That may not be an easy task. Afghanistan accounted for 85 percent of the opium produced worldwide last year, far outdoing rival producers such as Myanmar and Mexico, according to United Nations data. The country has also been accused of playing a major role in the global supply of cannabis and methamphetamines.
Despite its austere version of Islamic theology and strict enforcement of religious rules, the Taliban has long had a symbiotic relationship with the trade in opium, which can be processed chemically to produce narcotics such as heroin. In the 1990s, the group allowed the opium trade even as it banned hashish and cigarettes as haram (forbidden) for Muslims.
The group’s religious justification? Heroin largely affected non-Muslims outside of Afghanistan.
It was a “gymnastic” interpretation of Islamic law, said Haroun Rahimi, a legal scholar at the American University of Afghanistan. But the group needed the support of smugglers and farmers, as well as funding, which it could get by taxing opium production.
Source: The Washington Post