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Originally published November 10 2014

Regions of Afghanistan that were 'poppy free' are now experiencing 'all-time high' of poppy cultivation

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Despite spending billions to eradicate poppy plants in Afghanistan, which is responsible for nearly three-quarters of the world's heroin, cultivation of the illegal plant has actually reached an "all-time high," according to federal oversight investigators.

The U.S. government has spent some $7.6 billion on counter-narcotics efforts in the southwest Asian nation, where U.S. forces have been fighting Taliban and al Qaeda militants since 2001, making Afghanistan America's longest war.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon:

Despite the spending to combat growth of the poppy plant, which is used to make drugs such as opium and heroin, cultivation has reached an "all time high," especially in places once declared "poppy free," according to new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

"After a decade of reconstruction and over $7 billion in counternarcotics efforts, poppy cultivation levels are at an all-time high," SIGAR concluded in its report, which was recently released.

'Cultivation has far exceeded previous records'

The report further stated:

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007. With deteriorating security in many parts of rural Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014.

As expected, the findings have generated considerable consternation and concern regarding the efficacy of U.S. anti-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan. Opium poppies remain a top crop in the country, providing a reliable source of revenue for Taliban insurgents.

The report went on to note that, between 2012 and 2013, as U.S. troop levels fell in Afghanistan, the country experienced a 50 percent increase in poppy-related proceeds, the result of the farming boom.

"Despite the significant financial expenditure, opium poppy cultivation has far exceeded previous records," SIGAR said in its report.

The dramatic increase in production of the still-popular drug is largely the result of new deep-well technology that has enabled Afghans to transform major portions of previously inhospitable desert land into fertile, productive land. And opium -- the byproduct of poppy plants and the main substance in heroin -- continues to remain pricey.

"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," the report says. "Poppy-growing provinces that were once declared 'poppy free' have seen a resurgence in cultivation."

It adds that areas once "considered a model for successful counterinsurgency and counternarcotics efforts" have witnessed a dramatic, fourfold increase in poppy production between 2012 and 2013.

In addition, adds The Washington Free Beacon:

Profits garnered from the production of opium and other poppy-derived drugs have increased from $2 billion in 2012 to $3 billion in 2013, the report found.

'There is no silver bullet'

Some are beginning to question the U.S. counter-narcotics effort in the country, especially the special inspector general.

"In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production," the report states. "However, the recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts."

U.S. Embassy officials in Kabul, the Afghan capital, have admitted defeat in terms of drug eradication after being approached by the special IG for comment on the report.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which commented on behalf of the State Department and USAID, said it has "acknowledged the significance of the poppy cultivation issue in Afghanistan," SIGAR said in the report.

"There is no silver bullet to eliminate drug cultivation or production in Afghanistan or to address the epidemic of substance abuse disorder that plagues too many Afghans," said the Embassy.

Sources: [PDF]

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