Conspiracy theorists in the Balkan have long speculated on the true nature of the Albanian uprising in Macedonia. According to them, Afghanistan was about to flood Europe with cheap opium through the traditional Balkan routes. The KLA - denounced by the State Department as late as 1998 as a drug trafficking organization - was, in the current insurrection, in its new guise as the NLA, simply establishing a lawless beachhead in Macedonia, went the rumours. The Taliban were known to stock c. 3000 tonnes of raw opium. The Afghanis - Arab fighters against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan - another 2000 tonnes (their fee for providing military and security services to the Taliban). Even at the current, depressed, prices, this would fetch well over 2 billion US dollars in next door Pakistan. It also represents 5 years of total European consumption and a (current) street level value in excess of 100 billion US dollars. The Taliban intends to offload this quantity in the next few months and to convert it to weapons. Destabilizing the societies of the West is another welcome side effect.
It is ironic that the Taliban collaboration with the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP) culminated this year in the virtual eradication of all opium poppies in Afghanistan. Only 18 months ago, Afghan opium production (c. 4600 tonnes a year) accounted for 70% of world consumption (in the form of heroin). The shift (partly forced on the Taliban by an unusual climate) from poppies to cereals (that started in 1997) was thus completed successfully.