A dramatic drop in U.S.-funded opium eradication efforts in Afghanistan over the last few years is fueling a growing heroin addiction problem afflicting tens of thousands of women and some children in the war-ravaged country, reports the Washington Post (WaPo).
“Drug addiction in Afghanistan, once mostly limited to men who spent years as laborers or war refugees in Iran, has exploded into a nationwide scourge that affects millions of people, including a growing number of women and children,” notes the Post.
“The most startling aspect of the drug boom, though, is still largely hidden from sight. Tens of thousands of Afghan women, confined to their homes by tradition and often dependent on addicted men, are succumbing, too. This has created a growing phenomenon of drug-centered households where family relations, economic stability and social traditions can easily collapse,” it later adds.
Under President Barack Obama’s tenure, cultivation and production of opium and its heroin derivative skyrocketed while efforts to destroy the illicit drug crops dropped to nearly zero.
In fact, the Obama administration placed a much-needed revised version of the failed U.S. counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan “on hold for more than two years” while heroin production reached historic levels.
The $8.5 billion U.S. effort to combat the opium and heroin trade has not stripped the country of its title as the world’s top producer of the illegal drugs, which is why a new strategy is necessary, argues the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. watchdog agency.
According to experts, most Afghan female addicts are introduced to drugs by their husbands or male relatives. Daily routines collapse, and traditional Muslim norms — including women’s expected roles as modest, devoted wives and mothers — are upended by the frenzy of hunting for drugs and the haze of getting high.
Some women become prostitutes or thieves. Children are given opium to keep them quiet, sent out to beg, turned over to orphanages or sold into marriage to pay for drugs,” points out the Post. “At their most desperate, younger women gravitate to drug markets such as the infamous addicts’ colony under the Pule Sukhta, or Burned Bridge, in southwest Kabul, where they can share a pipe, purchase a baggie of heroin for pennies and hide from the world.”
The Post fails to mention the former administration in its article.
WaPo does acknowledge that eradication efforts have plummeted “over the past five years,” assigning blame to insecurity in the country and a lack of “foreign funding.”
President Donald Trump has inherited a mess in Afghanistan left behind by his predecessor.
“Over the past five years, programs of crop eradication and substitution have been largely abandoned as foreign funding has ended and insurgent attacks have increased,” reports the Post. “As a result, tens of thousands of farmers have returned to the lucrative business of growing opium poppies. Last year, 420,000 acres in Afghanistan were devoted to poppies, and opium production rose 43 percent over 2015, to 4,800 tons, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.”
The United States has been primarily responsible for funding and carrying out counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since the war started in October 2001.
According to the United Nations, the number of opium and heroin addicts in Afghanistan has tripled, from about 1 million in 2010 to nearly 3 million in 2015.
Now, U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for rehabilitation efforts, funding addiction centers such as the recently opened National Center for the Treatment of Addiction for Women and Children in Kabul while Americans at home die from the same problem, a growing heroin overdose problem deemed the worst drug crisis in history.
Between 2001 and the end of 2015, opium cultivation and production increased nearly 25-fold to 420,000 acres and 4,800 metric tons, respectively, U.N. figures show.
Meanwhile, eradication plummeted, and addiction increased dramatically. DEA officials argue that only about one percent of the heroin seized in the United States originates in Afghanistan.
The opium trade generates an estimated $1 billion in proceeds. U.S. military officials believe the Taliban, the most prominent terrorist group in the country, makes 60 percent of its funding from the illicit business