Since the fall of the Taliban government at the start of the war, the United States has invested $10 billion to fight the Afghan drug trade, through efforts such as ending poppy cultivation, halting the manufacture of narcotics, establishing drug treatment programs, and building a robust counternarcotics police force and criminal justice system. This might be money well spent, as 90 percent of the world’s opium originates in Afghanistan. No effort to build a stable nation there can succeed amid the hurricane forces of financial and institutional corruption that come with a thriving drug trade.
But 12 years and $10 billion later, according to Sopko’s testimony, “Afghan farmers are growing more opium poppies today than at any time in their modern history,” and despite the “mammoth investment” of American dollars and blood, “more land in Afghanistan is under poppy cultivation today than it was when the United States overthrew the Taliban in 2002.”
Still, the optimist might argue, good policies under hard conditions take time to bear fruit. So five years after President Obama assumed decisive control over our strategy in Afghanistan and tripled the number of U.S. service members in that war, are his efforts finally set to pay dividends? Said Sopko: “In the opinion of almost everyone I spoke with, the situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond.” As a result, “All of the fragile gains we have made over the last twelve years on women’s issues, health, education, rule of law, and governance are now, more than ever, in jeopardy of being wiped out by the narcotics trade which not only supports the insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption.”