Afghan Gov't Fights Opium Farming
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – From March to August, the United Nations says, almost 90 percent of the world's opium is grown in the fields of Afghanistan. The U.N. says cultivation of opium poppies, which can be made into heroin, is up 64 percent over last year in Afghanistan.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai (search) says that's humiliating. "We should fight poppy with the same zeal as we fought the Russians. If we do not, our homeland ... will face danger again."
But it's not as simple as eradicating poppy fields, because it's estimated that 50 percent of this struggling nation's economy is reliant on opium cultivation.
Poppies are not a cash crop for Afghan farmers. Most of them eke out a hand-to-mouth existence by selling poppies to rich drug lords. So the Afghan government, with U.S. support, is trying to convince farmers there to try a new crop, one that would be more profitable and beneficial.
"If they can grow wheat, if they can grow other crops, small grain, then obviously that gives them an opportunity to earn a living for their families," said Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.
But U.S. aid has limits. Some House Republicans are holding up about $350 million for Afghanistan because they want to make sure it's spent on effective counter-narcotic programs.
For now, Afghan counter-narcotic leaders, such as Gen. Mohammad Daud (search), are trying to get an unequivocal message out to Afghans: "Growing poppies is against the Constitution. It's illegal in Afghanistan. We will not let them grow poppies."
Click on the video box above to see the full story by FOX News' Molly Henneberg.
Editor's Note: FOX News' Molly Henneberg was embedded with a delegation of lawmakers from the House International Relations Committee who traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Germany. This is the third in a series of reports.
Part One focused on a madrassa in Pakistan and part three will focus on tensions between the U.S. government and Afghanistan on the eradication of poppies, which are used to make heroin.
Part Two focused on the remote and mountainous Khyber Pass region, a strategic front in the War on Terror.