Helmand is the largest of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the southwest part of the country. Its capital is Lashkar Gah. The Helmand River flows through the mainly desert region of the province, providing water for irrigation.
Helmand is the world's largest opium-producing region, responsible for 75% of the world's total production. This is more than the whole of Burma, which is the second largest producing nation after Afghanistan. Afghan opium accounts for more than 90% of the global supply, and thus is the main source of the global heroin trade as well.
The Helmand valley region is mentioned by name in the Avesta (Fargard 1:13) as Haetumant, one of the early centers of the Zoroastrian faith, in pre-Islamic Afghan history. However, owing to the preponderance of non-Zoroastrians before the Islamization of Afghanistan – particularly Hindus and Buddhists – the Helmand and Kabul regions were also known as "White India" in those days. Some Vedic scholars (e.g. Kochhar 1999) also believe the Helmand valley corresponds to the Sarasvati area mentioned in the Rig Veda as the homeland for the Indo-Aryan migrations into India, ca. 1500 BC.
Much of the fighting between NATO and Taliban forces is taking place in this province and Helmand is said to be a Taliban stronghold.