Times are tough for the Taliban. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about between drone strikes and NATO raids, they’re having problems with their plants, too. A fungus has hit Afghanistan’s opium poppies, infecting what’s thought to be about half of the country’s poppy crop.
The poppy fungus could hit the Taliban hard. Afghanistan produces 92% of the world’s opium, and the insurgent group derives a big chunk of its income from the drug industry, by taxing poppy farmers and processing the raw opium and turning it into heroin.
Some believe NATO is behind the poppy fungus, but UN officials insist that isn’t the case. Still, farmers have noted that the fungus appears to be an “aerial spray,” or at least look like one. Whatever the cause, the poppy fungus is expected to hinder the Taliban by limiting its ability to pay troops, making jobs with the Afghan Security Forces or U.S.-backed development organizations more attractive. But, it could also have the opposite effect. Many farmers rely on the poppy crop for their income, and the tough times could drive some to join the insurgency. And, the poor crop has already caused a jump in opium prices, making growing more profitable for those who are fungus-free.