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Part One of a Series: Opium in Afghanistan

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After eight years of occupation in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has not been able to meet any of the mandates they had set out to accomplish in late 2001. These goals included the permanent defeat and dismantling of the Taliban, eradication of opium production, and establishing a democratic national government. Critically examining all of these aspects of the development of Afghanistan, it is easy to see that the ISAF, namely the US, UK and Canada, have not even begun to accomplish any of these goals.

In fact, in many ways, NATO forces have often been the cause of the problems that Afghan people face every day. The growth and production of opium in the country has dramatically increased during the years after invasion. The international trade of the drug now yields a four billion dollar a year business, accounting for half of the country’s GDP.

Eradication efforts by the foreign occupiers have been largely unsuccessful. The US has admitted that their policies against opium production have failed because eradication efforts have only cut production by 3% and national opium production has increased by forty times its previous amount during Taliban rule.

e="margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: 15.0pt; mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;">Helmand province, which is currently under occupation by the British military, has by far the highest production rate of opium in the country. Not only have eradication efforts been a complete failure here, but the cultivation of opium has more than tripled in recent years.

It seems that the British are not only complacent, but somewhat, or perhaps even wholly involved in the export and trade of opium in the region. With strict border control in Iran, and a heavy military presence in the province itself, how else could so many smugglers be successful in their illicit business? It is very hard for any logical person to believe that the opium is smuggled out of the country without the help of military and government officials.

The UN issued a report in 2009 detailing the worldwide effects of opium exported from Afghanistan. The report found that Afghan opium caters to fifteen million drug addicts worldwide, leading to the death of 100,000 people every year. These shocking statistics clearly exhibit the extent of the Afghan drug trade as virtually the sole source of the world’s opium supply. The simple steps that could be taken by the ISAF forces to stem the growth and distribution of this drug would have far-reaching positive effects against drug abuse throughout the world. Unfortunately, the international coalition has exhibited no genuine interest in decreasing the supply of opium. The narcotics industry in Afghanistan is not only allowed to exist, but is actively supported by the military and government forces of the ISAF and the Afghan government.