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Taliban Urges International Cooperation To Replace Opium, Develop Afghanistan

July 13, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—In an interview on Arab News “Frankly Speaking” broadcast aired July 10, senior Taliban leader Suhail Shaheen called on the international community to come to Afghanistan’s aid and help the nation to become a thriving part of the global community after 20 years of war. Shaheen, who heads the Political Office in Doha, proposed a true “win-win” effort between Afghanistan and partners, on the one hand to assist in developing the newly sovereign nation, and on the other to assist farmers, who have recently abandoned growing opium and urgently require assistance in growing substitute crops in order to make a living. Such an effort to remove for good the world’s largest source of heroin would clearly have a beneficial effect globally.

Suhail Shaheen, said that the Taliban were successful in liberating Afghanistan from the occupying Americans in 2021, and now they want to welcome collaboration and relations with the whole world. “[W]e are building our country. We aim to eradicate poverty and to provide job opportunities for our people. For that we need cooperation from all countries, and if they are willing, we welcome them,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen also slammed those “occupying powers” who spent countless billions over 20 years of war, none of which benefitted the Afghan people. He further denounced the economic sanctions that are still in effect, saying, “The common people continued to live below the poverty line. ... We are working to tackle these issues and there are some big projects such as road construction that generate internal revenue,” he stressed.

Shaheen brought up affect the opium production, all while Afghanistan was “occupied” by NATO forces, which turned the country into the world’s largest producer and exporter of opium products. “In the past 20 years, [the foreign forces] spent, according to them, billions of dollars in order to eradicate poppy cultivation, but they failed. They were also trying to prevent drug trafficking, but they failed,” he said.

“Now we have a total ban on poppy cultivation according to the (April 2022) decree by our supreme leader [Hibatullah Akhundzada]. And we have succeeded. Independent reports say poppy cultivation is down by 80%, but we say it is down more than that. We have achieved this by our own ways and means.” A UN report last month based on satellite images shows the Taliban had nearly eradicated poppy production in Afghanistan.

Shaheen called on the international community “to come forward and help [Afghan] farmers and provide them with substitute crops in order to make the ban sustainable. In Afghanistan, farmers have two or three acres of land, which is not enough to feed their families. There should be something from the international community for those farmers who are abiding by the ban and who have stopped cultivating poppies,” he said.

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