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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July 2005, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Britain's heroin fix

Jane Corbin in a field of opium poppies in Afghanistan
Britain's heroin fix
Sunday 24 July 2005
22:15 BST, BBC One
Britain is losing the war against drugs - on the streets of our cities the price of heroin has halved in the past decade fuelling addiction and a wave of crime. 95% of the heroin for sale in the UK comes from one country - Afghanistan.

That's why three years ago - after 9/11 and the ousting of the Taleban, the Prime Minister announced that Britain was taking the lead in fighting opium production at its source - one of the world's wildest and most lawless places. Yet since that time poppy production has boomed and Afghanistan threatens to become a narco-state as powerful drug barons threaten the fledgling democracy of President Karzai. Drugs will be top of his agenda as he visits his ally, Tony Blair, in London this week.

Panorama's Jane Corbin has travelled throughout Afghanistan to find out why opium production is out of control. She talks to farmers in remote provinces during the recent harvest to discover why the opium crop has risen twenty fold since the Taleban cracked down on it virtually eradicating it in 2001. She traces the cycle of poverty and debt which traps poor families in this trade - some have even had to sell their children to pay off their debts.

Meanwhile the smugglers get off scot-free and powerful officials within the government take their cut of the drug trade. Panorama reveals the role played by Britain behind the scenes - co-ordinating the fight against opium and the eradication of the poppy fields. The UK has trained a crack Afghan unit to tackle the smugglers and smash heroin stills hidden in remote mountain areas.

But Afghanistan is a state in name only - it has no functioning infrastructure and is riddled with corruption. President Karzai has declared a jihad against opium but his government is struggling to establish courts and impartial prosecutors - even prisons so those responsible for the heroin trade can be put behind bars.

Panorama talks to the British minister about what he describes as a 'crusade' to stem the flow of drugs from Afghanistan. Will the Prime Minister's pledge ever be fulfilled or is the price of the UK's involvement in Afghanistan post 9/11 a continuing and increasing flow of drugs - and misery onto British streets?

Production team:
Reporter: Jane Corbin
Producer: Stephen Scott
Assistant Producer: Kenneth Payne
Deputy Editors: Andrew Bell, Frank Simmonds
Editor: Mike Robinson



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