The producer country: How Afghanistan's drug industry survived 'jihad'

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Indy Politics

In 2004 the newly inaugurated President, Hamid Karzai, called for a jihad against Afghanistan's multibillion-dollar drugs industry, a rallying call for a campaign that would cost British taxpayers alone £850m between 2002 and 2009. Yet last year a UN report claimed Afghanistan's drugs underworld "is connected through payment and patronage to senior political figures who provide the required protection".

The effects of such corruption have been compounded by inefficiency and miscommunication and a tug-of-war between members of the international community over how to tackle the issue.

Until recently, the Americans were so in favour of using pesticides to destroy poppy crops that their former ambassador to Afghanistan, Bill Wood, was known by other diplomats as "Chemical Bill". A UN drugs czar called the policy a "sad joke".

In 2009, that all changed when the late US diplomat Richard Holbrooke said: "The Western policies against the opium crop, the poppy crop, have been a failure. They did not result in any damage to the Taliban, but they put farmers out of work."

Today, Afghanistan still supplies more then 90 per cent of the world's heroin.