• Afghanistan looks set for another year of record opium production in 2017, maintaining its role as the world’s biggest producer.
  • As opium production has grown, the Taliban has assumed a bigger role in it, deriving much of its income from the drug trade.
  • As the Taliban relies more and more on drugs, many of its fighters are less likely to accept reconciliation with the US-backed government.

Afghanistan has long been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium, which is used to make heroin, and the Taliban has made a lucrative business from taxing and providing security to producers and smugglers in the region.

But the militant group has expanded its role in that drug trade considerably, boosting its profits at a time when it is making decisive gains against the Afghan government and its US backers.

According to a New York Times report, the Taliban has gotten involved in every stage of the drug business. Afghan police and their US advisers find heroin-refining labs with increasingly frequency, but the labs are easy to replace.