As Taliban Depends More on Heroin, Anti-Cultivation Efforts Plummet


Efforts to eradicate opium in Afghanistan dropped by nearly 90 percent last year as the cultivation of the illicit drug, which as heroin provides an estimated 60 percent of Taliban funding, reached unprecedented levels.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. watchdog agency, published a report revealing the alarming trend this week. Meanwhile, a heroin crisis deemed the worst drug addiction epidemic in U.S. history has gripped the United States.

Although the DEA estimates that only about one percent of the heroin in the United States originates from Afghanistan, the world’s top producer of opium, some analysts believe it is impossible that only such small amount reaches American soil.

The DEA has acknowledged that the majority of heroin in neighboring Canada is produced in Afghanistan.

As heroin overdose deaths in the United States have reached historic levels, surpassing gun homicides, the U.S. is spending millions to treat opium-related addiction in Afghanistan.

“The United States has committed more than $8.5 billion to counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, the country still leads the world in opium production, and Afghan farmers are growing more opium than ever,” notes SIGAR in its latest quarterly report to Congress, the last to cover the Barack Obama administration.

Citing the United Nations, SIGAR points out that eradication efforts in 2016 “were the lowest this decade at 355 hectares—a 91% decrease from 2015,” while opium production skyrocketed 43 percent over 2015’s levels, to an estimated 4,800 tons.

Afghan territory under opium cultivation also increased this year by 10 percent, to 201,000 hectares (about 776 square miles), compared to last year’s total.

The area under opium cultivation is equivalent to more than 11 times the size of Washington, D.C.


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