Afghanistan to break opium poppy growing record

Afghanistan's illicit heroin-producing poppy crop set another record this growing season, besting even last year's haul despite stepped-up efforts to combat the trade, the top US official in Afghanistan said Tuesday. Ambassador William Wood said preliminary data show that Afghan farmers harvested 185,000 hectares (457,135 acres) of poppies this year, continuing the upward trend of an industry fueling the Taliban, crime, drug addiction, and government corruption. Farmers last year grew 165,000 hectares (407,715 acres). Farmers this year grew 86,000 hectares (212,506 acres)in Helmand province alone, the most violent region in Afghanistan where NATO forces are battling hundreds or thousands of Taliban fighters. Government-led eradication efforts destroyed about 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres) of poppies this year, Wood said. "Our eradication effort ... was disappointing," Wood told reporters at his private residence overlooking Kabul.