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The South Asia Channel

U.N. predicts decrease in Afghanistan’s poppy production

On Tuesday the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its annual report on the worldwide prevalence of drugs — according to usage, production, and transportation (ET, Reuters). The report predicted that 2012 would see a large blight in poppy crops in Afghanistan, causing worldwide opium and heroin prices to increase. Nearly half of ...

AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images

On Tuesday the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its annual report on the worldwide prevalence of drugs — according to usage, production, and transportation (ET, Reuters). The report predicted that 2012 would see a large blight in poppy crops in Afghanistan, causing worldwide opium and heroin prices to increase. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s poppy crops were lost to plant disease in 2010, but output returned to normal levels in 2011 after yields increased 61 percent. But as UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov noted: "We may anticipate that this year there will be another plant disease — maybe not to the same scale as 2010 — but (it) still may affect, especially in the southern part of Afghanistan, poppy cultivation." Despite the anticipated decline, the report also highlighted that between $27 and $30 billion worth of drugs annually are smuggled out of Afghanistan through Pakistan, while $1.5 billion stays in Pakistan.

USA Today reports that U.S. soldier deaths resulting from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan have dropped significantly in the last year, even as the placement of IEDs has increased (USA Today). Less than half of troop deaths are now caused by the handmade devices, though the Pentagon admits that there has been a 5 percent spike in IED incidents since March. One of the reasons given for the decline is due to the shift in combat operations from south to the east — the latter, a more mountainous terrain navigated primarily by coalition vehicles is less susceptible to casualties than the former area where soldiers are more likely to travel on foot. The Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization estimated that 86 percent of IED attacks include explosive materials that originate in Pakistan.

A U.S federal judge on Tuesday rejected a plea by an Afghan challenging his confinement by the U.S. military at Bagram airfield (WaPo). Zia-ur-Rahman, who said in court filings that he has been in detention since a raid on his home in 2008, wanted judicial recourse for his "illegal arrest and detention", but U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin threw out the case on grounds of insufficient jurisdiction to hear it.

Another Prime Minister, another confrontation

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday directed new Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to re-open a dormant corruption case against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (WaPo, Dawn, ET). The move sets up another potential crisis point between the country’s civil government and its influential judiciary. The previous Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, was thrown out of office last week after refusing to open a Supreme Court-mandated probe against Zardari. The charges against the President date to the 1990s and involve allegations of corruption enmeshed in Swiss bank accounts. In Wednesday’s development the Supreme Court demanded that Ashraf respond to its directive by July 12 and give any justification for why he wouldn’t pursue the case.

A U.S. drone strike on Tuesday killed five suspected militants in the Shawal area of South Waziristan (CNN, AJ, WSJ, Dawn). The target, a militant compound in the area, was "completely destroyed". The dead were alleged to be linked with pro-Taliban warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur who last month warned humanitarian organizations from conducting anti-polio efforts in his area until U.S. drone operations ceased.

Go west, young investor

A new survey of some of Pakistan’s top corporate managers initiated by Barclay’s Pakistan suggests that investment in Africa is set to rise significantly in the coming years (ET). Already, trade imports and exports have risen at over 15 percent for the last decade, trends that are expected to continue.

–Tom Kutsch

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