$7 Billion US Eradication Effort Delivers Record High Poppy Crop in Afghanistan
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-23 00:21:32 UTC
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Dreams October 21, 2014$7 Billion US Eradication Effort Delivers
Record High Poppy Crop in AfghanistanFederal watchdog report "calls into
question" US efforts to stamp out opium productionby Andrea Germanos, staff

U.S. Marines walk through a poppy field in Helmand province, Afghanistan on
April 17, 2012. (Photo: Marines)

Opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan are at a record high, though
the U.S. government has spent over $7 billion to stop it, a federal
watchdog states in a new report

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck
Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder and US AID head Rajiv Shah, Special
Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko
writes: "Despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation
and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium
poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013."

"As of June 30, 2014, the United States has spent approximately $7.6
billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan," the letter states.

"Despite the significant financial expenditure, opium poppy cultivation has
far exceeded previous records," he writes, adding that this "calls into
question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior

The value of opium and opium-made products in Afghanistan—the world’s
largest producer of opium—rose 50 percent from 2012 to 2013, the report
states, citing United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) figures.

Though the crop has funded extremist and criminal groups and contributed to
a public health crisis
many Afghans see opium poppy cultivation as their only option. A UNODC
report issued
last year stated that Afghan farmers cited as among the top reasons for
their cultivation of opium poppy its high sales price, high income from
little land, improving their living conditions, and poverty.

A Defense Department response to the SIGAR findings, which is included in
the report, states, in part: "In our opinion, the failure to reduce poppy
cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of Afghan
government support for the effort." The Department also states that the
rise in poppy cultivation "is a significant threat to U.S. and
international efforts in Afghanistan."

But U.S. poppy eradication and interdiction efforts have been
described as spectacular
failures <http://fpif.org/afghan-drug-war-2014/>. As the Drug Policy
Alliance has noted <http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-prohibition-and-violence>,
drug eradication efforts have not brought decreases in violence:

Just as alcohol prohibition allowed organized crime to flourish in the
1920s, drug prohibition empowers a dangerous underground market that breeds
violent crime throughout the United States and the world. The illegality of
drugs has inflated the price, and thus the profit, of drugs substantially.
With it, the competition for drug markets has intensified, often through
violence. Whether on street corners in U.S. cities, across the border in
Mexico, or in the poppy fields of Afghanistan, drug trade-related violence
continues, despite the billions of drug war dollars devoted annually to law
enforcement and interdiction efforts.

As for the rising opium production in Afghanistan, author and *TomDispatch*
editor Tom Engelhardt wrote
last year that it could be seen as a legacy of the U.S. occupation:

Almost 12 years after it began, no one here, it seems, is considering how
to assess American “success” on that distant battlefield. But were we to
do so, what possible gauge might we use? Here’s a suggestion: how about
opium production? In 1979, the year America’s first Afghan war (against
the Soviets) began, that country was producing just 250 tons
of opium; by the early years of the post-9/11 American occupation of the
country, that figure had hit 3,400 tons. Between 2006 and the present,
it’s ranged from a 2007 high of 8,200 tons
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_production_in_Afghanistan> to a low of
just under 5,000 tons. Officials of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service
now claim that 40,000 tons
<http://rt.com/news/afghanistan-opiates-heroin-ivanov-140/> of illicit
opiates have been stockpiled in Afghanistan, mostly to be marketed abroad.
As of 2012, it was the world’s leading supplier of opium, with 74%
of the global market, a figure that was expected to hit 90%
as U.S. combat troops leave (and foreign aid flees). In other words,
success in an endless war in that country has meant creating the world’s
first true narco-state. It's a record to consider. Not for nothing, it
seems, were all those billons of dollars expended, not without
accomplishments do we leave (if we are actually leaving).
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