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Afghan Opium Production Down, American Forces Hopeful

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A combination of poor growing conditions and government and military interdiction contributed to decreased opium production in Afghanistan this year, the New York Times reported May 22.

American officials hope that a bad year, coupled with aid and incentives, could push Afghanistan's farmers to move off the poppy crop, which help fund the Taliban opposition.

“If the government of Afghanistan will help us next year,” said one farmer, Obidullah, “we will not grow poppy.”

Weather and willpower might not be enough to kill production, however. Poppy is still the most profitable crop in Afghanistan, and short supply has driven up prices, encouraging many farmers to stick with the risk. And while the opium trade is technically illegal in Afghanistan, the American military is not authorized to enforce local laws.

Moreover, as one officer noted, attacking farmers would do little to win over the hearts and minds of the populace necessary to rebuild the country.

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