In a new report, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) claims that the US has spent $8.94 billion to fight illicit drugs in Afghanistan since 2002.
“As of September 30, 2019, the United States has appropriated $8.94 billion for counternarcotics (CN) efforts in Afghanistan since FY 2002,” SIGAR said in the report.
Based on the SIGAR report (citing UNODC), the value of illicit drugs was greater than the value of the country’s legally exported products in 2017 and 2018.
The report states that although Afghanistan’s area under opium-poppy cultivation fell by 20% in 2018, it remained at the second-highest level since the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring it in 1994.
Also, according to the report the recent decrease was due to a lack of rain that affected growing, rather than counter-narcotics efforts.
Opium-poppy cultivation has become a crucial element in the livelihood of many Afghans. Significantly, more Afghans are engaged in cultivation, work in poppy fields, or are involved in the illicit drug trade, than the total number of personnel in the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
But the Afghan Ministry of Interior challenges the report.
“I think one of the key reasons for sustained cultivation and smuggling is that we have not managed to cut off the hand of international purchasers, therefore we do not have any significant achievement in the area of eradicating drug smuggling,” said Fida Mohammad Ulfat Saleh, head of parliament’s internal security commission.
“The United States has not focused on the root causes of the issue. People came here and invested large amounts of money, but investment was carried out in the wrong way,” said Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, former deputy minister of interior.
“Opium production and cultivation have increased; in the past it was cultivated in specific areas, but now it is being cultivated in more areas, in the past it was harvested one time but now it is harvested two times a year,” said MP Gul Ahmad Kameen.
“Over the past year serious steps were taken to fight drugs and our operational sectors have achieved significant gains in this area,” said Nusrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Interior.
According to the SIGAR, the US Department of Defense (DOD) spent the most money in the fight against drugs in Afghanistan.
“DOD is the largest contributor, in support of CN efforts,” reads the report.
The report notes that Afghan law enforcement also faces a growing methamphetamine production problem. Afghan drug producers likely learned how to manufacture methamphetamine from Iran, where methamphetamine production has been a problem for law enforcement and health professionals since the mid-2000s.