Afghan poppy booms in failure of $7 billion combat effort

1
90

Despite a US investment of nearly seven billion dollars to combat poppy growth in Afghanistan since 2002, the country’s opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The United States having lost its battle against the country’s narcotics industry is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, marking one of the starkest failures of the 2009 strategy the Obama administration pursued in an effort to turn around the war, a front-paged report said.
The Post quotes law enforcement officials and counter-narcotics experts in its report, noting “as the war economy contracts, opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, are poised to play an ever larger role in the country’s economy and politics, undercutting two key US goals: fighting corruption and weakening the link between the insurgency and the drug trade”.
This spring, the Afghan army opted for the first time in several years not to provide security to eradication teams in key regions, forgoing a dangerous mission that has long embittered rural Afghans who depend on the crop for their livelihoods.
In the end, experts say efforts over the past decade to rein in cultivation were stymied by entrenched insecurity in much of the country, poverty, and the ambivalence – and, at times, collusion – of the country’s ruling class.
With a presidential election just months away, political will for anti-drug initiatives is weak among members of the Afghan elite, many of whom have become increasingly dependent on the proceeds of drugs as foreign funding dries up, said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, who heads the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan.
“Money is less and less available within the licit economy,” he said. “The real danger is the weakened resistance to corruption and to involvement in a distorted political economy, which weakens your resistance to collusion with the enemy.”
The report says as US forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan – roughly 51,000 American troops are left, down from a peak of 100,000 – insurgents have fought particularly hard to reclaim lost ground in Helmand province, the center of Afghanistan’s poppy industry, US military officials have said.
In its latest progress report on Afghanistan to Congress, the Pentagon warned that the 2013 poppy harvest was expected to be “considerably” bigger than that of 2012, citing warmer early-season weather, the drawdown of NATO troops and the high price for poppies.
The July report characterised the reach of counter narcotics efforts by the Afghan government and its foreign partners as “small but not insignificant.” The report noted that demand remains high, drug-smuggling networks remain resilient, and “insurgent penetration of that market is extensive and expanding”.
The UNODC is scheduled to release its yearly Afghan opium survey report next week. Experts and Western diplomats in Kabul have said they expect the report to show a dramatic expansion of cultivation from 2012, when the agency estimated that 154,000 hectares of land was used to harvest poppy.
US officials say they have established a competent, well-trained Afghan counter-narcotics police agency and a special drug court to discourage the trade. But the long-term sustainability of those efforts is uncertain as the West reassesses spending levels in Afghanistan after 2014, when the US combat mission is due to end, and continues to shift increasing responsibility for security to the Afghans.
Haroon Rashid Sherzad, Afghanistan’s deputy counter narcotics minister, said getting at the root causes of its drug problem would take a generation and vastly expanded regional cooperation.
Critics of the West’s counter-narcotics policies say that while some of those initiatives were well thought out, ultimately they were too little, too late.
The office of the special inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction noted in its latest quarterly report that drug interdictions have dropped as the US drawdown has gained steam. The DEA operations, the report added, will be largely constrained to Kabul; without the military, agents will have limited ability to move around the country safely. Drug trafficking is all but guaranteed to flourish unimpeded in Kandahar and Helmand, the southern provinces where the largest share of US troops were killed during the war, the auditing agency warned.

1 COMMENT

  1. If the growth of poppy comes into America` hands.U.S. will earn more than America`s wealth, but what to do not possible for America. But inddor America`s games are going on only for MONEY AND NOTHING ELSE.

Comments are closed.