Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters, 2009, Excerpts
Helmand Province is about the size of West Virginia. If it were a separate country, it would the world’s leading opium producer, with the rest of Afghanistan in second place. It’s also where links between the Taliban and the opium trade are strongest.
Poppy cultivation has been increasingly concentrated in southern provinces where the insurgency holds sway, but command and control of the southern Afghanistan drug trade is mainly located in Pakistan. Opium is processed into morphine base or heroin in unstable border areas. Profits from the southern drug trade are laundered between Quetta and Dubai, often ending up in western banking institutions.
Major campaigns to wean Helmand’s farmers off of poppy have been expensive failures. Helmand receives more U.S. aid than any other Afghan province. Much of the money is being spent on large infrastructure projects. More that $200 million in U.S. and British funding was designated for Helmand in 2008, a year when poppy output there still increased by 45 percent.
In 2008, Afghanistan produced about twice the amount of opium that the world’s addicts smoke, eat, or shoot for several years now. So where is all that extra dope? UN official s estimate the Taliban and the smugglers they work with have stockpiled as much as 8,000 tons of opium – enough to supply the world’s heroin addicts for two years.
Afghanistan suicide blasts 'kill 18' in Herat, Helmand
10 Apr 2012
In the first Helmand attack, four policemen were killed when three suicide bombers attacked a police compound in Musa Qala district. Two of them detonated explosive belts strapped to their bodies, while a third attacker was shot by police. Helmand police and intelligence officials told the BBC that the Taliban were attacking the security forces after failing to fulfill a promise to help local farmers prevent a poppy eradication program currently under way in the province. Helmand is one of the most volatile provinces of Afghanistan, frequently witnessing attacks by insurgents.
US opens 'major Afghan offensive'
02 Jul 2009
The US army says it has launched a major offensive against the Taliban in south Afghanistan's Helmand province. The US military says about 4,000 marines as well as 650 Afghan troops are involved, supported by Nato planes. It is the first such large-scale operation since US President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan, as part of a new strategy for winning the conflict. Many of them are being redeployed from operations in Iraq, to help with training Afghan security forces and to tackle the insurgency.
The operation - codenamed Khanjar or Strike of the Sword - began when units moved into the Helmand river valley in the early hours of Thursday. Helicopters and heavy transport vehicles carried out the advance, with Nato planes providing air cover. UK-led forces in Helmand launched their own operation to combat the Taliban insurgency last week, in what the Ministry of Defense described as one of the largest air operations in modern times. Thousands of British forces under Nato command have been fighting the Taliban in Helmand since 2006.