WASHINGTON, June 14 (Sputnik) – More than $8 billion spent by the United States in the past decade to curtail opium production in Afghanistan has been graded a failure, with poppy production at an all-time high and providing income for terrorist groups with help from corrupt Afghan officials, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko told guests at the New America think tank on Thursday.
“From fiscal year 2002 through FY [fiscal year] 2017, the US government spent roughly $8.62 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan,” Sopko said. “Despite this investment, Afghanistan remains the world’s largest opium producer, and opium poppy is the country’s largest cash crop.”
Sopko noted that opium cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record high in 2017, with about 328,000 hectares devoted to poppy growing – almost 20 times the land area of Washington, DC.
“The amount of opium seized over the last ten years is equivalent to about 5 percent of the estimated opium production in 2017 alone,” Sopko added.
Moreover, Afghanistan’s narcotics sector continues to fuel insurgent violence and foster corruption throughout the Afghan government due to alliance between corrupt officials, drug traffickers and insurgent groups, Skopo charged.
Opium accounts for up to one-third of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product – 20-to-32 percent – and provides as many as 590,000 full-time jobs – more than the number employed by Afghan military and police forces, according to Skopo.