Blitz on opium crops will have huge impact on poorest farmers

Opium prices have reportedly leapt in some parts of Afghanistan as the Taliban vow to crack down on poppy production, one of several edicts that suggests the group may repeat its former hardline and repressive rule.

After Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, told an August 18 press conference in Kabul that the new government would stop Afghanistan’s drug trade, Afghan farmers in several provinces told the Wall Street Journal that raw opium prices had tripled from about €58 per kilo to nearly €175.

While Afghanistan’s raw opium is responsible for about 80pc of the world’s illegal opiates, it is also a critical cash crop for many Afghan farmers.

An effective ban of the drought-resistant crop would seriously affect rural Afghan communities. The UN says that one in three Afghans is acutely food-insecure amid a worsening drought and mounting financial crisis.

In a worst-case scenario, the Afghan economy could contract by up to 22pc over the next year, analytics firm GlobalData forecast last week.

The national currency has now hit record lows, with most banks remaining closed for the past two weeks.

Yesterday, long queues again formed outside banks in Kabul, with Taliban fighters reportedly beating Afghans desperate to withdraw cash.

Being unable to access paper money in a cash-based society compounds difficulties for civil servants who report not receiving salaries for the past three to six months. The Taliban has said it will resume paying government employees.

Taliban officials have ordered banks to resume operations but to impose withdrawal limits of  €170 or 20,000 afghani every day to prevent a run on the banks.

Mr Mujahid promised that banking difficulties will subside quickly once its new administration is operational.

The Taliban have said they will promote Hajji Mohammad Idris as the new governor of the central bank. A senior Taliban member throughout the insurgency, Mr Idris reportedly has no formal education in finance.

Meanwhile, the group was accused of shooting dead an Afghan folk singer, reigniting fears that the Taliban may conduct more reprisal killings as they consolidate their rule.

Fawad Andarabi was shot dead on Friday, his family said, in the Andarab Valley in Baghlan province. The Taliban previously searched Mr Andarabi’s home and even drank tea with the musician, his son said.

But then they returned yesterday and shot him dead. “He was innocent, a singer who was only entertaining people,” said his son.

Mr Mujahid said that the insurgents would investigate the incident, but had no other details on the killing.

Mr Andarabi played the ghichak, a bowed lute, and sang traditional songs about his birthplace, his people and Afghanistan.

“There is no country in the world like my homeland, a proud nation,” he sang in one video posted online showing him seated on a carpet outdoors surrounded by mountains.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, decried the killing, writing on Twitter: “There is mounting evidence that the Taliban of 2021 is the same as the intolerant, violent, repressive Taliban of 2001.

“Twenty years later, nothing has changed.”

Parts of restive Andarab have opposed Taliban rule and the province adjoins Panjshir, the only province not under Taliban rule.

The group cut internet and mobile connections to Panjshir, sources said yesterday.

The valley is the redoubt of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan.

The move to cut communications may be aimed at limiting the influence of Mr Saleh, who has issued defiant messages of resistance from the valley.

“I will never, ever and under no circumstances bow to terrorists,” Mr Saleh wrote on August 15, shortly before fleeing the Afghan capital.

A person who communicates with people in the Panjshir said that he was still able to reach contacts.

“It comes and goes… there is still service in some areas, it’s not complete,” he said.
(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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