It is spring that determines how a year turns out, according to an Afghan proverb. And if the Helmand poppy fields this spring are any indication, the Taliban will have a very good year.
As the opium harvest winds down across Helmand Province, Afghanistan’s largest in territory and poppy cultivation, farmers and officials are reporting high yields. The skies were generous with heavy rainfall, and the Afghan government with its cancellation of annual eradication campaigns. It had lost much of the territory in Helmand to the Taliban anyway.
So it was with peace of mind that farmers, and thousands of seasonal laborers who had traveled to Helmand, scraped the gum from the opium bulbs. Taliban fighters were just around the corner to lend a hand — and to receive their share of wages and taxes, in cash or kind. The crowded fields amounted to an insurgent recruiter’s dream.
“We are happy that we had a good harvest this year compared with previous years,” said Abdul Rahim Mutmain, a farmer in Musa Qala district. Mr. Mutmain said his modest plot saw a four-fold increase in yield compared with 2015, which was plagued by crop failures and concerted government eradication.
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Image courtesy of AP