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Turning Afghan opium ills to good

Is it time to revisit plans to license some of the deadly crop?

| Mongolia, Central Asia, Afghanistan
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A man tends a poppy field in eastern Afghanistan.   © Reuters

More than 15 years after the Western coalition ousted Afghanistan's Taliban regime, the scourge of illicit opium still dogs the country. At the same time, amid efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's opium industry, authorities in the U.S. and Australia are clamping down on addictive painkillers, leaving millions of people suffering pain without treatment worldwide. The situation has led to suggestions that it is time to revisit the solution opposed by key Western countries a decade ago: legalizing Afghantistan's opium production.

In Afghanistan, still poor after years of economic development efforts, results of the government's nation-rebuilding endeavors have been mixed. There have been marked improvements in some welfare indicators like school attendance and infant mortality, but slowing growth in the tiny formal economy shows per capita gross domestic product of just $620 for the 31 million people and continuing high reliance on aid inflows and military assistance.

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