Despair or Hope? Opium Poppy Cultivation in post-2014 Afghanistan
Like so much else in Afghanistan, the direction that the opium economy takes after 2014 will depend on a complex matrix of factors.Those who despair point to the more than one-third increase in cultivation, with a new high in 2013. They observe that with a contracting economy, increasing insecurity in rural areas, reduced international spending (and leverage) and a search for alternative sources of patronage among local power-holders,there are no obvious factors that would discourage expansion even beyond the current “unprecedented” levels.The absence of state influence in the 1980s and 90s allowed the expansion of opium poppy from relatively small and isolated areas to widespread cultivation, in the process becoming integrated with the larger rural economy and tilting political and economic power away from Kabul. Now, similar if not identical conditions underlie the fear of even greater expansion.