State Department Report Describes Record Illegal Drug Production in Afghanistan

Record illegal drug production in Afghanistan supplies the Taliban insurgency with money and arms and the U.S.-backed government must take direct, prompt action against poppy growers, a State Department report said Friday.

Afghan farmers grew more poppies for opium in 2007 than ever before, the second year in a row of record production in the nation the United States invaded after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The drug trade deters progress toward a stable, economically independent democracy, the report said.

The Associated Press obtained a portion of the annual report on illegal drug production and trafficking worldwide before its release. The full report was being released at the State Department later Friday.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report cited strong links between the narcotics trade and the anti-government insurgency. The largest and best-known insurgent group -- the hard-line Taliban -- benefits with money and weapons while offering protection to growers and traffickers, the report said.

"Eliminating narcotics cultivation and trafficking in Afghanistan will require a long-term national and international commitment," the State Department said.

"The Afghan government must take decisive action against poppy cultivation soon to turn back the drug threat before its further growth and consolidation make it even more difficult to defeat."

The report noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai considered limited aerial spraying to eradicate opium poppies last year, but opted not to do it. Such action would have been extremely dangerous and highly unpopular.