Since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the area under opium cultivation in the country has increased 23 fold to an area nearly ten times the size of Washington, D.C., while production of the illicit drug has skyrocketed 18-fold, from 185 metric tons to 3,300.
Opium cultivation and production has thrived over the course of the Afghanistan war despite a dramatic drop after the U.S. and NATO ended their combat mission in Afghanistan and withdrew most of their troops at the end of 2014.
Amid the ongoing heroin epidemic in the United States that is killing thousands, the White House and other government agencies have sounded the alarm on Afghanistan heroinpossibly flowing into the U.S. through Canada, where most of the heroin available is from Afghanistan.
“There is also an increase in transshipments of Afghanistan heroin going to Canada, a development of concern that is being addressed by Canada with support from the United States,” noted the White House last year.
When the U.S. began targeting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the ruling Taliban government had imposed an opium ban in Afghanistan.
Opium cultivation and production began to thrive again soon after the U.S. military replaced the Taliban-led government.
Estimated opium production in Afghanistan in 2001 was 185 tons, the lowest since the UN began keeping track in 1994. Potential opium production reached 3,300 tons in 2015, the latest year for which data is available, marking a nearly 18-fold increase over the course of the war.
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