Taliban and Heroin: The Untold Story

John Thorne, University of Cincinnati
Graham Farrell, University of Cincinnati

Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of illicit opium and subsequent heroine. In July of 2000, the Taliban ruling regime declared the cultivation of opium poppy to be fundamentally against the teachings of Islam. Using questionable tactics, the Taliban reduced opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by roughly 90%. After the Taliban was deposed by coalition forces in 2001, opium poppy cultivationa and resultant opium production returned to near normal levels.

Data obtained from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United States State department corroborated by qualitative information from a UNODC agent will be utilized to solidify several conclusions about the effectiveness of this policy. First, the reductions in opium poppy witnessed in Afghanistan were not due to increases in opium poppy output from competing nations. Second, poppy cultivation fell dramatically in areas under Taliban control while remaining constant or increasing in provinces controlled by the Northern Alliance. Lastly, analysis of the resultant data and trends leads to the conclusion that the Taliban's prohibition tactics produced the massive decrease in global opium production in the year 2001 and was not due to an external confound.

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Updated 05/20/2006