High fail: Afghan opium production rises as ex-Blackwater profits
Opium production has been on the rise in Afghanistan over recent years despite US counternarcotics efforts. Infamous mercenary firm, formerly known as Blackwater, has creamed off $569 million from the Pentagon in this unsuccessful drive.
The money the company received from US tax-payers was used for “training, equipment, and logistical support” for Afghan forces engaged in counternarcotics operations. These agencies included the “Afghan National Interdiction Unit, the Ministry of Interior, and the Afghan Border Police,” says a report from The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, citedby the Guardian.
Formerly known as Blackwater, and later rebranded as Academi, the notorious company has been the biggest beneficiary of counternarcotics expenditure in the war-torn country.
However, the firm failed to eradicate opium production. In fact, this has reached record highs since the beginning of US occupation in 2001.
Since the US toppled the Taliban in 2002, opium production in the country has tripled. Afghanistan accounted for over 90 percent of the world’s heroin market in 2014.
A UNAIDS report from 2014 said that there is a 7-percent increase in land being cultivated despite the US spending over $7 billion on counternarcotics programs.
The organization said poppy cultivation had expanded to 224,000 hectares in 2014, an increase of 7 percent. In contrast, a mere 74,000 hectares were being used to grow poppies in 2002, a year after the Taliban regime was ousted from power.
Not surprisingly, with more land being used to grow poppies, there has been an increase in opium production, the raw material for heroin. Around 6,400 tons of opium were produced in 2014, a hike of 17 percent over the previous year.
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