Drugs will no longer be produced in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, a spokesperson for the Islamist group has insisted.
Zabihullah Mujahid said at a news conference in Kabul that there will be zero drug production or smuggling in the country in future, adding that seeing young people addicted to drugs makes him “very, very sad”.
Senior Taliban figures including Mujahid have sought to present a palatable vision of Afghanistan’s future by addressing international press shortly after seizing power in the nation’s capital.
“There will be no drug production, no drug smuggling. We saw today that our young people were on drugs near the walls; this was making me very, very sad that our youth are addicted,” Mujahid said.
“Afghanistan will not be a country of cultivation of opium anymore, but we need international help for that. The international community needs to help us.”
Mujahid also insisted that there was “zero” production of drugs in Afghanistan when the Taliban were last in power, but that rates were “high” under the most recent government.
Although the Taliban largely eradicated poppy growing for opium production in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s, in the years prior opium production was allowed and helped fund the organisation.
Afghanistan has since become the largest illicit opiate supplier in the world, the profits from which some experts say may help the Taliban keep control of the country.
United Nations officials reported that the Taliban likely earned upwards of $400m (£290m) from the drugs trade between 2018 and 2019, Reuters reports, although some experts dispute this.
Nevertheless, banning poppy growing would present a problem for the Taliban’s finances, as Mujahid appeared to acknowledge during his press conference.
“We need to have help — funding,” he said. “We will bring opium cultivation to zero again.”