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War on Drugs in Afghanistan 'Total Failure,' Watchdog Says

Farmers are scraping poppy heads to produce raw opium gum in Afghanistan
Farmers are scraping poppy heads to produce raw opium gum in Afghanistan, the world's biggest illegal opium producer. (Venelin Petkov/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 05 December 2019 06:11 PM

The counter-narcotics effort that has been part of the 18-year-old U.S.-led war in Afghanistan "has just been a total failure," according to a U.S. watchdog.

In remarks last month at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan's reconstruction, said the Drug Enforcement Administration has "done a yeoman's task" in Afghanistan, Business Insider reported.

He added the special Afghan units trained there also have "made wonderful seizures."

"The Afghans with the cooperation of the DEA have actually seized more drugs in Afghanistan than I believe we in the United States have seized on the Mexican border," he said, BI reported.

Nevertheless, "the amount seized over . . . I think it's the last 10 years still is less than 5% of the crop that was grown last year — 10 years of seizures, less than 5%. So you're never going to work your way out of that by just seizures alone," he said.

"That's an area where we definitely have seen no improvement. If anything, I think we've probably gone back."

The Taliban banned opium in 2000, but the invasion and collapse of governing institutions opened a vacuum that allowed cultivation to increase, with production making a steady rise since 2011, BI reported.

"From 2013 to 2016, drug production continued at or near the highest levels ever consistently seen in Afghanistan," according to a 2018 report from the watchdog, BI reported.

The most recent quarterly report, released at the end of October, said the United States has allotted about $8.94 billion to fight drugs in Afghanistan since 2002.

While Afghanistan's opiate economy shrunk by two-thirds between 2017 and 2018, it was still 6% to 11% of the country's GDP and exceeded the value of the country's official legal exports of goods and services, according to the watchdog.

"We created a counternarcotics court to handle the narcotics issues," Sopko said, BI reported. "They try a lot of people, but they try the poor slob who happens to be a the scene of the crime and not the big fish."

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The counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan "has just been a total failure" during the 18-year-old U.S.-led war, a U.S. watchdog reports.
drugs, inspector general, war, watchdog
Thursday, 05 December 2019 06:11 PM
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