Taliban soldiers on Tuesday seized United Nations World Food Program warehouses in Kandahar and Kabul. Brandishing guns, the soldiers entered the buildings and ordered staffers to leave. No one has been reported injured. The food warehouses stored a total of 7,000 tons of food. The Taliban has since returned to WFP the warehouse in Kabul. According to a WFP spokesperson in Peshawar, Pakistan, “it looks like everything is intact.” The warehouse in Kandahar is still under Taliban control.
U.N. Security Council president, Richard Ryan ordered the Taliban to “stop threatening the safety and security of aid workers…[and] cease obstructing aid destined for the Afghan people.” Ryan also noted that the humanitarian crisis predominately affected Afghan women, girls, and children. The United Nations has estimated that up to 7.5 million Afghans would be in need of humanitarian assistance, including food aid. Relief workers estimate that 50,000 tons of food per month will be needed to alleviate the crisis, but the WFP ships only about 900 tons of food into the country daily. The U.S. military is also dropping food rations and have increased the number of daily rations from 37,500 to 70,000 per day. While the air drops have clearly benefited a few, relief agencies have criticized their effectiveness as the drops can only meet less than 1 percent of the need.
Even though food is desperately needed in Afghanistan, the U.N. Drug Control Program reports that fields are being cleared in Taliban-controlled areas for the cultivation of poppy instead of wheat. According to experts, the Taliban collects billions of dollars in profits from the trafficking of heroin and opium. Those profits are used to finance their regime and its military supplies. Since September 11, the export of heroin out of Afghanistan has increased by 400 percent. Severe poverty has now caused farmers, who usually borrow money to buy poppy seeds to plant, to trade their daughters, some as young as 10 years old, for seeds or for loan forgiveness. Currently, the Taliban produces 70 percent of the world’s supply of heroin, and the majority of heroin in the United States and in Europe originates in Afghanistan.