Helmand anti-poppy drive fails to hit target
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok): Officials on Wednesday said they were wrapping up an anti-poppy campaign in southern Helmand province without achieving the target.
They said they had been set the target of destroying the illicit crop on 10,000 hectares of land, but only 2000 hectares could be cleared due to some problems.
Flanked by the provincial counternarcotics head, the governor’s spokesman, Omar Zwak, told a press conference in Lashkargah that the problems hindering efforts at continuing the anti-poppy drive had been the election process, a lack of concern on the part of the ministry concerned and heavy rains.
He said although the area brought under the plant cultivation this year had increased in Helmand, the Taliban’s resistance against the crops destruction had been weakened.
There had been fewer casualties among security forces engaged in the campaign, which led to the establishment of security posts in areas formerly controlled by the rebels in Marja, Nad Ali and Asmat Bazaar areas.
The gubernatorial spokesman also claimed drug smugglers had been prevented entering Helmand to buy narcotics.
During the campaign, he said, five policemen and one Afghan soldier had been killed in gun and bomb attacks that left two troops injured.
The counternarcotics chief Mohammad Lal Ahmadi said the big problem had been insecurity behind increased poppy cultivation. He said the Taliban encouraged and pressurised formers into growing the banned crop.
He said the campaign was delayed because the ministry concerned did not assist them with resources needed.
Poppy crop was grown on 65,000 hectares land in Helmand last year, when only 3000 hectares could be cleared.
But this year, the crop has been cultivated on 100,000 hectares and so far more than 2000 hectares have been cleared of the plant.
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