Before the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Helmand province was the epicentre of Afghan poppy cultivation, with 40,000 hectares being grown in 2000. In 2001 the Taliban, a hard-line Islamic movement that had emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan in the wake of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, declared a ban on poppy production. They stipulated that the crop’s use in the production of narcotics went against the teachings of Islam; in reality, this was an attempt to deflect growing international pressure on the Taliban regime. Following the invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban government, whose brief poppy ban was astoundingly effective, poppy cultivation increased dramatically as many impoverished Afghan farmers turned back to their most effective source of income. The Taliban retained a significant presence in Helmand, one of the more mountainous and inaccessible provinces along the border with Pakistan, after the invasion. Afghan government and coalition forces were mainly situated in Lashkar Gah and increased Taliban attacks in 2006 led to the deployment of British forces, who established their base at Camp Bastion.
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