Awash in opium, Afghan ‘wild west’ slips from Kabul’s grasp

Afghan drug addicts smoke heroin inside a cave in Farah province February 4, 2015. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

(Reuters) – In fields less than a 10-minute drive from the intelligence headquarters of Afghanistan’s remote western province of Farah, farmers are planting their first illegal opium crop of the year.

Taliban insurgents control half of the region bordering Iran, government officials estimate. In one district, Khaki Safed, the sacked local government chief refuses to step down.

Worried villagers there say a former Taliban commander is leading an armed band several dozen strong who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Farah offers a prime example of Afghanistan’s nexus between Islamist militancy, crime, opium and Kabul’s feeble grip on power. Residents say problems escalated after foreign troops withdrew in early 2013 and locals in Farah’s most lawless areas say the breakdown in order is complete…