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Report: Big drop in Afghan opium production

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Opium cultivation in Afghanistan appears to have fallen significantly this year, according to a new report by the United Nations. That could be good news: For years an opium boom has been the one of the Taliban's main sources of income, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That's money for arms, fighters, and suicide bombers – all of which helped make this year the deadliest for American and coalition troops since 2001.But it is unclear how this year's drop will impact the Taliban, especially since insurgents are believed to have stockpiled two years’ worth of opium.The Washington Post reports:

The area under opium poppy cultivation fell this year by 22 percent, to 123,000 hectares, or about 304,000 acres, the second consecutive year of decline after a rapid growth of opium farming since the war began in 2001, according to the United Nations' 2009 Afghanistan Opium Survey. Twenty of the country's 34 provinces are considered poppy-free, two more than last year.”

The dent in opium could signal that drug eradication programs – a key component of efforts to stabilize Afghanistan – are working, as Agence France Presse reports:

The report attributed the "dramatic turn-around" to governor leadership, a more aggressive counter-narcotics offensive, the increased favouring of legal crops and the successful introduction of food to promote legal farming.
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