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Feature: Why ‘War’ Against Narcotics Failed in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, engaged in prolonged internal wars and a war on terror, and the only country in the world whose main production narcotics is circulating in most parts of the world. The country that has the most notorious smuggling network and smugglers, even, some politician included in the list.
In nearly two decades, the cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan has grown steadily. No strategy or plan has ever been used to hinder this degenerative phenomenon. Additionally, publicity programs are being launched all the time by the government and its partner agencies.
According to statistics, there are 3.5 million drug addicts in Afghanistan. Among them, women and children are also found abundantly. Women and children also pay for the addiction of a father or a family member. This large number of drug addicts has made it more difficult for the Afghan government to overcome the problem.
The new Afghan government, formed after the fall of the Taliban regime, created a ministry under the Afghan cabinet to fight the cultivation and production of narcotics. The ministry has the task to plan for the reduction and elimination of opium cultivation and trafficking, and in cooperation with other executive agencies, to expedite this phenomenon.
Tens or maybe hundreds of millions of dollars are consumed annually from this address, but the result is still pathetic. Not only that, new reports every year show that opium cultivation has increased by several percentage points. The pretext is the spread of insecurity – a phenomenon that many security experts consider to be the outcome of the expansion of opium production.
Over the past eighteen years, along with insecurity and poverty, drugs and addiction constitute the third angle of the Afghan crisis triangle. Although seemingly, the fight against drugs and addiction has been one of the main priorities of the Afghan government and the international community, and a lot of spending has been spent on combating this phenomenon, Afghanistan is still the largest drug market in the world, and the trend of addiction among Afghan youths has kept on expanding. According to the latest figures, more than two million people are addicted in Afghanistan, and the phenomenon is increasing among young people and adolescents. The phenomenon of addiction and narcotics is a concern of every single Afghan citizen.
According to a recent Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report, the United States (US) has provided more than $ 1.5 million to the Afghan government on an average daily basis to combat drug trafficking from 1381 to 1397.
Despite the billions of dollars spent by the international community on combating drugs, there has been no progress.
The Daily Mail recently released a report on the cultivation of narcotics in Afghanistan, according to which Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium producer, and this has influenced hundreds of thousands of people.
Afghanistan’s most of the poppy cultivates in the rural areas, according to the same report; however, Helmand province is still the opium cultivation center.
Although the amount of opium poppy cultivation has been reduced and Afghanistan has produced less opium poppy in 1397, this decrease is relative to opium production in 1396, which was the highest since the year of 1373. Drought strongly influenced the production and yield of opium in the north and west of the country, and opium production in Helmand, the fall in opium prices last year, has reduced the incentives for some farmers to cultivate opium.
One of the reasons for the failure of the Afghan government’s counter-narcotics program was the lack of coordination between the relevant institutions and the Afghan government’s large promises to farmers, which in some cases did not work.
There were some encouraging programs for Afghan farmers to use alternate crops instead of opium in the southern provinces of the country, but these programs did not work either.
In 2007, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai launched a program called “Honoring Good Performance” in order to implement development plans in partnership with the Counter Narcotics Ministry.
The agency, funded by the International Bureau of Illicit Drugs and the US Department of State’s Execution Act, provided development programs in provinces that would be effective in reducing the incidence of drug production.
The program was worth $ 1 million annually for provinces that had a good performance in the destruction of opium poppy fields, but eventually it was seen that the program, with a cost of $147 million from 2007 to 2014, also had no good achievement in eradicating opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, as in order to achieve ‘good performance, many areas started growing poppy so that they could later destroy them and get the reward.
If the Afghan government and the international community establish coordination among relevant institutions alongside implementing alternative crop development plans for Afghan farmers, we will be able to see the decline in Afghanistan’s cultivation and production of drugs in the future. The Afghan government must also consider agricultural projects that are able to guarantee farmers better production and secure finances; otherwise, the situation will continue.
(Sahar News)

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