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CNN Classroom Edition: Narco State - The Poppy Jihad

  • Story Highlights
  • Examine the economic, political and social aspects of poppy cultivation
  • Identify the challenges that Afghan officials face in banning opium production
  • Assess national strategies for combating the illegal drug trade
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(CNN Student News) -- Record the CNN Special Investigations Unit Classroom Edition: Narco State: The Poppy Jihad when it airs commercial-free on Monday, January 7, from approximately 4:10 -- 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN. (A short feature begins at 4:00 a.m. and precedes the program.)

Program Overview

Opium now makes up 46 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product. Despite the millions of American dollars spent on eradication, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan remains out of control, with the heroin produced increasingly finding its way to the streets of America and Western Europe. In Narco State: The Poppy Jihad, CNN investigates why opium production has grown so much since 9/11 and how it is fueling the Taliban's resurgence.

Grade Level: 9-12

Subject Areas: Current Issues, Social Studies

Objectives: The CNN Special Investigations Unit Classroom Edition: Narco State: The Poppy Jihad and its corresponding discussion questions and activity challenge students to:

  1. Examine the economic, political and social aspects of poppy cultivation;
  2. Identify the challenges that Afghanistan's leaders face in banning opium production;
  3. Assess national strategies for combating the illegal drug trade.

Curriculum Connections

Social Studies

Standard III: People, Places and Environments: Students will make informed and critical decisions about the relationship between human beings and their environment.

Standard VII: Production, Distribution and Consumption: Students will learn about how people organize for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Standard IX: Global Connections: Students will examine global connections and interdependence.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( are published by the National Council for Social Studies (

Discussion Questions

1. What efforts have the Afghan government and the international community taken in recent years to eradicate opium poppies?

2. According to the report: What is the current status of poppy cultivation and heroin production in Afghanistan? What percent of the world's illicit opium poppies are currently being produced in Afghanistan?

3. Who are the Taliban? What role does the program suggest that the Taliban currently plays in the production of Afghan opium poppies? According to British journalist Peter Jouvenal, why is drug eradication a "fantastic opportunity for the Taliban"?

4. Why do you think that the U.S. has a vested interest in helping the current Afghan government to succeed?

5. How is the recent resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan impacting the Afghan government and the U.S.-led War on Terror?

6. According to the report, why do many farmers in Afghanistan grow opium poppies, despite the fact that it is illegal to do so?

Don't Miss

7. What is the goal of the U.S. government's current poppy eradication efforts, according to Doug Wankel, director of the U.S. Counter-Narcotics Task Force in Afghanistan? Do you think that this goal is achievable? State your rationale.

Suggested Activity

Divide your class into three groups. Refer each group to the Web sites provided to prepare a presentation about either the political, economic or social aspects of opium production and drug trafficking in Afghanistan. Following the group presentations, ask students:

1. Of these three categories, which do you think poses the greatest challenge for those who want to eradicate poppy cultivation in Afghanistan? State your rationale.

2. In your view, what might be the consequences for Afghanistan, the U.S. and other members of the international community if poppy eradication efforts fail?

3. Who do you think should be responsible for poppy eradication in Afghanistan?

Related Resources

  • Afghan poppy industry eludes U.S. control
  • Afghanistan Ministry of Counter Narcotics
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Afghanistan
  • International Cooperation Brings Success in War on Drugs

EXTENSION: Group students and assign each group the role of the U.S., Afghanistan or another member of the international community. Instruct each group to consult online resources to learn about what its nation is doing to combat the illegal drug trade. Next, conduct a mock summit where each group presents its nation's strategy for addressing the war on drugs. Following the presentations, have students discuss the pros and cons of each strategy, and the lessons that might be learned.

Wrap up the activity by having students write or videotape editorials in which they answer the following question: What approach should Afghanistan's leaders and the international community take to address the war on drugs, and why?


Afghanistan, drug trade, narcotics, opium, eradication, poppies, farmers, alternative crops, United States, terrorism, Taliban E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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