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Drug trade flourishes in Afghanistan as Taliban's reach grows

Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field at Gereshk in Helmand Province.
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field at Gereshk in Helmand Province. Photo: Noor Mohammad / AFP / Getty Images.

Opium poppy production is at an all-time high in Afghanistan, increasing 87% — from 4,800 to 9,000 tons — over the past year, according to a U.S. government report. This is providing a crucial revenue stream for the Taliban, which has been gaining territory in the 16th year since the U.S. invasion.

Why it matters: Seth Jones, the director of the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS, tells Axios that opium is "the single most important revenue for the Taliban." According to a new BBC report, the Taliban is now operating in 70% of Afghanistan — in full control of 14 districts and maintaining "an active and openly physical presence" in 66% of the country.