Poppy eradication sparks clashes between Taliban and locals in Nangarhar
The economic impact of poppy eradication on local communities, and the lack of alternative forms of income, have the potential to spark confrontations.
27 Apr 2023
Image: Mark Stroud, via Flickr
On April 3, 2022, Bakhtar News, a Taliban-controlled state news agency, reported the publication of a decree banning the cultivation of poppy throughout the country. The Taliban administration warned that poppy fields would be destroyed, and the offenders punished according to Islamic law.
Despite the decree, in 2022, the Taliban administration did not fully enforce the poppy cultivation ban throughout the country. According to various announcements by the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA), only a few provinces saw the policy implemented, with 50 acres of poppy fields destroyed in Uruzgan, 850 acres in Badghis, and two acres in Farah in 2022.
In January 2023, the MoIA started announcing the destruction of poppy fields throughout the country and the arrests of people in connection to their sale and distribution. On April 9, 2023, the MoIA announced the destruction of 125 acres of poppy cultivation fields in six provinces as part of the campaign to eradicate poppy fields in the country. Among the areas reported in the official statement were four acres of land in the Spin Ghar district and 26 acres in the Achin district in Nangarhar province.
On April 10, various media outlets reported a clash between local farmers and the Taliban’s poppy eradication team in the Shadal Bazaar area of Spin Ghar district. According to local journalist Saeed Shinwari, at least one farmer was killed, and three others were wounded during the clash. A Twitter user shared a video of the incident where it is possible to see local civilians throwing stones towards the Taliban forces’ vehicle in the distance. In response, the Taliban allegedly opened fire against the civilians. Although it is not possible to confirm the Taliban were aiming towards the population, the footage contained the sound of gunfire followed by a crowd running away from the direction of the Taliban vehicle.
Photos shared online showed a crowd of locals seemingly unhappy with the Taliban’s behaviour. According to the tweet accompanying the images, locals complained that the Taliban eradicated the poppies without providing any alternative livelihood to the farmers.
On April 11, a video shared online showed a large group of civilians shouting “hit them” as they allegedly advanced towards the Taliban. Although AW investigators did not visually confirm the presence of the Taliban in the footage, it was possible to hear the sound of gunfire. Both videos showed a large number of civilians protesting against the Taliban and were geolocated to less than 450 metres from each other, as seen below.
The Achin and the Spin Ghar districts border each other, so the confrontation possibly took place between the two regions.
On April 11, a Taliban delegation led by the provincial governor, Mullah Mohammad Naeem Akhund, visited the village and offered condolences to the family of the farmer killed in the clash. The Nangarhar governor’s media office claimed that the governor offered money to the families of those killed and injured in the incident. In a speech, the Head of the provincial Ulema Council, Sheikh Hazrat Jan Hanafi, praised Spin Ghar residents for their past support of the Taliban and asked them to obey the order of the Supreme Leader, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, concerning the ban on poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.
The incident shows that while the Taliban appear to be pressing ahead with poppy eradication, the practical economic impact on local populations – and the lack of viable income alternatives – has the potential to spark confrontations.