A new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction issued today highlights the continued growth of Afghanistan’s poppy fields despite more than a decade of U.S. and international counter-narcotics efforts.
"The expanding cultivation and trafficking of drugs puts the entire Afghan reconstruction effort at risk," said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.
"By every conceivable metric, we've failed. Production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan," Sopko said.
SIGAR has found that well-meaning efforts have in some cases helped fuel the increase in poppy farming.
For example, in southwestern Afghanistan affordable deep-well technology has turned 200,000 hectares of desert into arable land over the past decade. But the report found “due to relatively high opium prices and the rise of an inexpensive, skilled, and mobile labor force, much of this newly-arable land is dedicated to opium cultivation.”
And it found that provinces once-declared to be "poppy free" have seen a resurgence in cultivation.
In 2008, the U.N. touted Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan as a success story where farmers had turned away from planting cash crops of opium poppy. But five years later the cultivation of opium poppy had increased “fourfold,” the new report concluded.
Afghanistan’s opium trade was valued at $3 billion in 2013, according to U.N. estimates.