Neither individual Afghans nor foreign governments have cause to mourn the collapse of the Taliban regime. But in one respect, it is already being missed abroad if not at home: it managed to eradicate most of Afghanistan’s cultivation of the opium poppy. Now the Taliban are defeated, the country may once again reclaim the dubious honour of being the world’s biggest producer, and the dominant force in the world heroin trade. Rival South-East Asian producers are now scrambling to beat them to market. Police and customs forces throughout Central Asia and Europe are bracing themselves for an influx of cheap heroin, and the United Nations (UN) International Narcotics Control Board, in its annual report, to be published on Tuesday February 26th, will appeal for action to prevent renewed Afghan production.
Afghan officials haven't dropped by Haji Khudi Noor's dim nook in Kandahar's bustling opium market to order a halt to his business. Foreign aid workers haven't come to tell him how to feed his 35-member family if he did.
Until one -- or both -- happens, Khudi Noor says, opening his brown shawl to reveal a lap piled high with patties of raw opium, Afghanistan's new opium ban will have little force against its new opium boom.