The United States has called in air strikes to stop the Taliban from taking control of opium fields in the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province.

Over the weekend the air strikes were called in after the Taliban seized weapons and vehicles from Afghan soldiers.

Helmand province is said to be one of the world’s largest opium-producing regions, larger than the whole of Burma which is the second largest producer of opium.

Production of opium reached an all-time high under the military control of the U.S. and NATO.

According to a report issued in 2013 by the Afghanistan Opium Survey of the United Nations, cultivation of poppy increased 36 per cent in 2013. Total opium production amounted to 5,500 tons, up nearly half since 2012.

“This has never been witnessed before in the history of Afghanistan,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the outgoing leader of the Afghanistan office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Prior to the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Taliban had successfully banned production of opium.

According to James P. Callahan, director of Asian affairs at the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. State Department, the Taliban framed the ban ”in very religious terms,” citing Islamic prohibitions against drugs, The New York Times reported on May 20, 2001.

CIA and Afghan Opium

In 2009 it was reported that the CIA controlled the opium trade in Afghanistan through Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the former president, Hamid Karzai, who began his career as a fundraiser for the CIA’s mujahideen during the 1980s.

“CIA-supported Mujahideen rebels engaged heavily in drug trafficking while fighting against the Soviet-supported government and its plans to reform the very backward Afghan society,” William Blum writes in The Real Drug Lords.

“The Golden Crescent drug trade, launched by the CIA in the early 1980s, continues to be protected by US intelligence, in liaison with NATO occupation forces and the British military. In recent developments, British occupation forces have promoted opium cultivation through paid radio advertisements,” Michel Chossudovsky wrote in 2007.

In 2010 Fox News’ Gerald Rivera talked with an occupation soldier about U.S. support of the opium trade in Afghanistan. The soldier told Rivera he did not like supporting Afghan opium production. The U.S., he insisted, has turned a blind eye to the cultivation due to cultural considerations. He said he would rather see the Afghans grow watermelons.

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