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After 11 years of war, $664 billion expended so far, 2,210 Americans dead, more than 35,000 of our troops maimed and shattered, and our good reputation spent – what have we built in Afghanistan?
According to a top international law enforcement official, you and I have built “The world’s first true narco-state.” Congratulations! “The opium trade,” he added, “is a much bigger part of the [Afghan] economy already than narcotics ever were in Bolivia or Columbia.”
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You might recall that under both George W’s and Obama’s war strategies, eliminating Afghanistan’s poppy production was one of America’s chief goals, for that crop generated billions of dollars in annual income for the Taliban insurgency we’re fighting, even as it fueled drug addiction here and around the world. So to combat the drug trade, the US has: (1) destroyed thousands of acres of opium poppies, (2) tried to shift the country’s impoverished farmers to wheat and other alternative crops, and (3) paid million-dollar “Good Performers” awards to provinces that achieved the coveted poppy-free status.
So, 11 years later, mission accomplished? The numbers tell the tale: For the third year in a row, Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation has increased; acreage devoted to poppies this year is expected to set a record; only one province has reduced its poppy plantings this spring, 12 increased theirs, and three previously-poppy-free provinces will likely lose that status this year. Finally, this stat: Afghanistan is expected to produce 90 percent of the world’s opium (plus 75 percent of the heroin supply).
Wait, one more tell-tale stat: An Afghan farmer can get 43-cents a kilogram for wheat, or $203 a kilogram for poppies. Which would you choose? Our war in Afghanistan makes no sense whatsoever. Why are we there?
“Production Of Opium By Afghans Is Up Again,” The New York Times, April 16, 2013.
“Notes and Sources,” www.costofwar.com, April 24, 2013.
“Operation Enduring Freedom,” wwwicasualties.org