LASHKARGAH, Afghanistan – Afghanistan will encourage its powerful drug lords to invest their illegally earned profits in the war-shattered country, according to the governor of the nation’s top opium-growing region.
The offer comes amid warnings of another bumper poppy crop that will fuel a booming narcotics trade, which already accounts for 35 percent of the impoverished country’s income.
“We as a government will provide them the opportunity to use their money for the national benefit,” Helmand Gov. Mohammed Daud said during a trip to the region this week by U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann.
“They must invest in industries. They must invest in construction companies,” he said.
But he said that so far the government has had no success in attracting the drug traffickers to open new businesses and that most of the money is being sent overseas.
The drug trade employs about one in 10 Afghanis and brought in $2.8 billion last year, Afghan and U.S. officials say. The vast majority of that goes to traffickers and only a small fraction to farmers.
About 345,000 acres of poppies are believed to have been planted this year – an increase of up to 40 percent from 2005. The opium is refined into heroin before being smuggled out of the country to meet 90 percent of the world’s supply.