America’s drug war in Afghanistan is failing badly, according to a new report from a U.S. government watchdog.

 

America’s drug war in Afghanistan is failing badly, according to a new report from a U.S. government watchdog.

Afghan farmers are growing record bumper crops of opium poppies, an unprecedented 209,000 hectares in 2013, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. This despite various U.S. agencies spending $7.6 billion to try to stop narcotics production in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is the source of 80% of the world’s illegal opium, the U.S. government says, yielding $3 billion in sales in 2013, up from $2 billion from the year earlier.

According to the report, a big chunk of that money funds the insurgency and terrorism.

“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts,” the report by the SIGAR office says. “Given the severity of the opium problem and its potential to undermine U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, I strongly suggest that your departments consider the trends in opium cultivation and the effectiveness of past counternarcotics efforts when planning future initiatives.”

The report says the 209,000 hectares record in 2013, surpasses the previous mark of 193,000 of opium poppy grown in 2007. The report relies on figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The inspector general report says that areas that were once models for successful counterinsurgency and counternarcotics efforts are now booming poppy producers.

The report cites Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, which the UN declared “poppy-free” in 2008, but saw a fourfold increase in opium poppy production between 2012-2013.

The inspector general sent the report to the State, Defense and Justice departments, whose agencies fund various anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan.

The State Department called the findings “disappointing,” but blamed the increase in opium poppy production on shifts in the Afghan government’s own security efforts.

The Pentagon asked the inspector general to remove Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from receiving the report because the military plays a secondary role to other U.S. government agencies in thwarting drug production in Afghanistan.

“In our opinion, the failure to reduce poppy cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of Afghan government support for the effort,” Michael Lumpkin, assistant secretary of defense wrote to the inspector general.

“Poverty, corruption, the terrorism nexus to the narcotics trade, and access to alternative livelihood opportunities that provide an equal or greater profit than poppy cultivation are all contributors to the Afghan drug problem.”

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