America risks losing the war on terror in Afghanistan unless it legalizes the opium trade
By Abigail Hall-Blanco
December 09, 2016
According to a recently released report by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production in Afghanistan has risen by 43% in the last year. The country’s drug trade employs some 2.9 million people—12% of the Afghan population—and generates approximately $68 billion in revenue a year.
The US government has spent some $12 billion in eradication efforts—more than four times the size of the entire pre-invasion economy. Yet Afghanistan now supplies around 90% of the world’s opium.
In Afghanistan, the drug cartel is the Taliban. In fact, the terror group takes in an estimated $200-$400 million annually from the illicit opium economy. But US drug policy doesn’t just offer the Taliban a profitable business opportunity; it also drives Afghan citizens toward the terror group. [Pundita note: see the rest of the report for Hall-Blanco's explanation about why the latter is so.]
The UN has acknowledged that the Taliban insurgency and drug trade are intimately linked. But research has also found that provinces producing more opium see higher levels of terror attacks. Moreover, there appears to be a correlation between spikes in the number of terror attacks and the months in which opium is harvested.