Production was down slightly in 2015 due to a drought yet 2016 is the third highest year for opium cultivation in Afghanistan following 2013 and 2014. The largest cultivations came out of areas in the south, west and east despite $7.5 billion dollars of US money to combat the problem.
The highest rate of opium yields are in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the areas the taliban has reclaimed since US combat troops left the country.
The efforts to eradicate poppy production however, have hit an all time low. This year a total of only 355 hectares of poppy were destroyed, down 91% compared to 2015. To put that in perspective the cultivated areas of poppy have rose from 183,000 to 201,000 hectares.
The report included incidents in the more secure regions where farmers sometimes directly attacked the eradication teams. The less secure provinces like Helmand (home of the highest levels of corruption and the majority of notorious “ghost soldiers”) had no eradication efforts carried out, due to the danger.
The Taliban now makes a majority of their money from the taxation, production and distribution of Afghani poppy yields, essentially making them a cartel. One factor that aided in this was the protection that poppy farmers were granted by US soldiers during occupation.
With Afghanistan as the number one country for the production of opium(around 90% of the world’s heroin is made from Afghan poppies), it’s impossible that the nation’s most profitable crop isn’t contributing to the growing opiate epidemic in the United States. There are even persistent rumors that the CIA may facilitate the smuggling on some level, reminiscent of the interventions in the 1980’s in Latin America.
Afghanistan may not receive the same amount of publicity as the failures in Iraq but it is still being mismanaged in a similar, if not worse way. While the Islamic State loses ground in Iraq, Afghanistan deals with a new cell of IS, the aforementioned corruption and a resurgence of the Taliban. America’s forgotten front in the war on terror is continuing to fester and rot and if something isn’t done the problems won’t just be escalating abroad but at home too.