"The Afghan Drug Industry Mostly Benefits the Taliban."
Far from it. Today, Afghanistan essentially holds a monopoly on heroin exports to the Old World. The country accounts for more than 90 percent of global production; although drug markets evolve over time, Afghanistan's production costs are so much lower than its would-be competitors' that it is a safe bet to assume the country will be the leader for at least five or 10 more years.
In the popular and American political imaginations, the Taliban are thought to be the big winners from this near monopoly, and there is some truth to this. The "narcoterrorist" label is often misused, but the Taliban are the real deal. They really do use profits from the opium trade to finance terrorist attacks on civilian and military targets. Although the Taliban traffic only modest quantities entirely on their own, taxing other people's drug deals is an important source of revenue; no one knows how much the Taliban profit from the drug trade, but whether they do isn't up for serious debate.
But just because the Taliban benefit from the heroin business doesn't mean the heroin business mostly benefits the Taliban. Consider the numbers (or at least the rough ones -- production figures fluctuate from year to year, conversion rates are crude estimates, and price data beyond the opium bazaars are sketchy). In a typical year, Afghan farmers sell about 7,000 tons of opium at $130 a kilogram to traffickers who convert that into 1,000 tons of heroin, worth perhaps $2,500 a kilogram in Afghanistan and $4,000 at wholesale in neighboring countries. That works out to roughly $900 million in annual revenues for the farmers, $1.6 billion for traffickers from operations within Afghanistan, and another $1.5 billion for those who smuggle heroin out of the country. (2010 was atypical; a poppy blight drove opium production down and prices up.)
The Taliban's take is subject to debate, with responsible estimates varying from $70 million to $500 million -- but either way it's not a big slice of the pie. The Taliban take 2 to 12 percent of a $4 billion industry; farmers, traffickers, smugglers, and corrupt officials collectively earn much more. It is not clear why the Taliban have been so unsuccessful at translating their power and influence into a larger share of trafficker revenues, but one thing is clear: They have nowhere to go but up. Upsetting the apple cart just to see where it lands is ill-advised; to the extent that counternarcotics efforts succeed, they are more likely to increase than to reduce the revenues and power of the Taliban.