HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Canadian soldiers have seized an estimated $3 million in opium from a mud-walled Taliban compound after an outnumbered Canadian reconnaissance patrol held off more than two dozen fighters until additional firepower arrived.
"It confirms what we knew but hadn't seen -- the physical evidence that there is a direct connection between Taliban activities and the drug trade here," said Lt.-Col. Ian Hope, commander of the Canadian battlegroup in southern Afghanistan.
"The Taliban is funded in large part by the opium trade."
It has been an "open secret" for several years that the Taliban-although violently opposed to the use of drugs by Believers-have no qualms whatsoever about turning a profit from the poppy fields of Afghanistan.
On October 3,2001 - before the fall of the Taliban -Asa Hutchinson, Administrator of the DEA,testified at length to that group's involvement in drug trafficking at a House Government Reform Committee hearing.
This testimony echoed a 1998 report, based on US State Department findings and advice.
After the fall of the Taliban,many of the survivors joined the ranks of friendly warlords-who were eager to regain a share of the lucrative opium trade,and who found disgruntled poppy farmers just as eager to supply them with product.
Some of our military have noted an upsurge in Taliban activity that coincides almost exactly with the growing,harvesting,processing, and smuggling cycles of the opium trade.
The Afghan government seems to think so,and has been making heroic efforts to wipe out the poppy crop;but short of spraying (which can have disastrous effects on other crops) the bright red flowers - and the need for farmers working on hardscrabble soil to feed their families - will continue to keep the Taliban up and running.