US Envoy Holbrooke Blasts Wasteful Anti-Opium Efforts in Afghanistan

Monday, March 23, 2009
US Marine in a field of opium poppies

The United States appears to be losing yet another war (on drugs), this time in Afghanistan, as Richard Holbrooke recently announced that the $800 million a year spent by the US on counter-narcotics would be better allocated helping Afghan farmers.

Holbrooke, who was appointed by President Obama as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated that efforts to eliminate opium poppy crops had failed to hinder the Taliban insurgents’ ability to raise money from the drug trade. “It is the most wasteful and ineffective program I have seen in 40 years,” he said. Holbrooke believes much of the money should instead be used to help Afghanistan’s expanding agricultural sector, which would in turn create many jobs.
Despite the U.S. government statement last month that poppy cultivation was reduced by 19% last year, the UN estimates that Afghanistan accounts for 90% of the world’s illegal heroin supply.
Holbrooke noted the inadequacies and corruption of the Afghan national police, and stressed the need to fix these problems in order to help strengthen local security. He also stated that the real threat to NATO in Afghanistan actually comes from western Pakistan, where the Taliban have significant support.
-Aaron Wallechinsky


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