Image: Opium addicts squat on the floor
Altaf Qadri  /  AP
Afghan opium addicts squat in the bombed-out ruins of the former Russian Cultural Center, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Oct. 2.
updated 11/23/2009 11:02:21 PM ET 2009-11-24T04:02:21

The U.S. on Monday agreed to hand out millions of dollars in development aid to provinces in Afghanistan that have eliminated or reduced the production of opium poppies, the raw ingredient in making heroin.

The poppy crop in Afghanistan, which produces 90 percent of the world's supply of opium, is linked to corruption, addiction and a drug trade that bankrolls the Taliban insurgency.

Curbing the cultivation of poppies is the goal of a U.S. program that has doled out $80 million  since 2007. That includes the $38.7 million the U.S. announced it is giving to 27 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces that either reduced poppy cultivation by more than 10 percent or became poppy-free this year.

"Illicit narcotics is a very serious problem with exports around the world, but we need to recognize that they do grave harm to Afghan society as well," said E. Anthony Wayne, development director at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. "The narcotics trade also feeds corruption, hindering Afghanistan's ability to build strong, democratic institutions and good governance. Narcotics also fuels the insurgency.

"Afghanistan has one of the highest addiction rates in the world, harming tens of thousands of people, damaging families and communities, limiting economic opportunity and depriving future generations the opportunity to make a better life."

In a separate program, the U.S. has opened 16 drug treatment clinics around the nation, and another 10 are expected in the next few months.

Video: DEA on the hunt for Afghan drugs

Determining which provinces will get the money is based on the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime opium survey, which reported poppy cultivation decreased 22 percent this year. The money, which is administered by the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics, has been used in the past to provide farm machinery, dig irrigation canals, and build public buildings such as schools, clinics and stadiums.

Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold where U.S. and British troops launched major operations this summer, will receive $10 million — the maximum allowed under the program — for reducing poppy cultivation by 33 percent, said Gen. Khodaidad, Afghan minister of counternarcotics, who goes by only one name. Three provinces — Baghlan, Faryab and Kapisa — will get $1 million each for becoming poppy-free for the first time, he said.

Almost all of Afghanistan's opium is grown in Helmand and six other provinces — all areas under partial or total Taliban control.

While the Obama White House has all but abandoned the Bush administration's program of destroying poppy crops, the Afghan government continues to support poppy crop eradication efforts. Critics said razing poppy fields angered and impoverished rural Afghans without making a significant dent in harvests.

U.S. and NATO troops began actively targeting drug warehouses for the first time this year. The U.N. reported that in the first half of this year, military operations destroyed 50 tons of opium, 7 tons of morphine, 1.5 tons of heroin, and 27 laboratories for turning opium into heroin.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Rehabilitation

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  1. After 17 years of heroin addiction, Ganamgul complains about painful withdrawal symptoms during his second day at Afghanistan's Kabul Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center on Sept. 28, 2009.

    Since the Kabul Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center opened in May 2009, it has helped more than 400 addicts. The 100-bed facility recieves temporary funding from the International Organization for Migration as well as help from the Ministry of Public Health. The center houses Wadan and Nejat, two organizations which offer detox programs. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A heroin addict sleeps in the shelter area provided for the homeless at the Kabul Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center.

    According to a 2009 U.S. State Department report, there are an estimated 2 million drug users in Afghanistan, including at least 50,000 addicts in Kabul. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Drug addicts exercise during the Wadan rehabilitation program.

    The patients exercise every afternoon to improve their physical health after years of abusing their bodies. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A doctor gives advice to a new patient in the Nejat detox program.

    The Nejat center, one of two organizations housed in the Kabul Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, tries to reduce the spread of diseases by addicts sharing needles and injecting equipment. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Drug addicts sleep in the shelter area provided for the homeless at the Kabul Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A detox patient leans over the stairwell at the Kabul Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center.

    The program typically lasts for 45 days. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Ahamad Shah lifts weights in the exercise room at the Nejat program.

    According to Nejat's Web site, a small team of doctors and social workers teach clients to resist the lure of opiates. Recovering addicts also receive training in job skills such as carpet weaving. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Heroin addict Ganamgul gets his head shaved on his first day of the detox program.

    Lice is a widespread problem when addicts come in off the streets. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Drug addicts sit in the detox room at the Wadan rehabilitation program.

    Sayed Gol Stanekzai, who is in charge of the Wadan center, said staff at the facility remain in contact with patients for one year after their stay as workers try to help them remain drug-free. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A drug addict taking part in the Nejat detox program sits by a window. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Prayer is an important part of the detox process. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Detox patient Ali Khan leans against a blackboard covered with notes from a class.

    The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is currently conducting a country-wide assessment of drug use, which may provide evidence for increasing the number of rehabilitation programs. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Kabul Detox Center Tries To Cope With Demands From Thousands Of Drug Addicts
    Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (12) Human toll of Afghan addiction - Rehabilitation
  2. Image: Heroin Addicts On The Rise In Kabul
    Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
    Slideshow (10) Human toll of Afghan addiction - Addiction

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