Since the US overthrew the Taliban government, Afghanistan’s opium industry exploded, fueling the current international heroin epidemic, Mnar Muhawesh reports for MintPress News.
Before 2001 when US military action began in Afghanistan, the Taliban government offered subsidies to Afghani farmers who grew food crops instead of heroin poppies. In the summer of 2000, the Taliban government banned the cultivation and production of opium poppies in Taliban-controlled areas. The following spring opium crops decreased significantly, from an estimated 3,276 tons in 2000 to 185 tons in 2001.
The US invasion of Afghanistan left Afghani farmers without prior economic incentives to grow food crops, and many returned to growing more profitable poppy plants. The US and its allies wanted to minimize how many troops they deployed in Afghanistan, so they funded local anti-Taliban fighting groups. Within six months these US-backed warlords helped revive the country’s opium trade and began to take control of it. In 2002, Afghanistan produced an estimated 3,400 tons of opium crops.
In 2015, an estimated ninety percent of the world’s opium poppy production is in Afghanistan, effectively flooding the world market for heroin, one of the most addictive and deadly drugs. From 2002-2013, the CDC reports that heroin-related deaths in the US “nearly quadrupled”; and over 10,000 people in the US died from heroin overdoses in 2014 alone. As Muhawesh concludes, “In the process of waging a ‘War on Terror,’ we lost the ‘War on Drugs.’ Both wars deal in corruption and violence, and they put real human lives on the line.”
Although Afghanistan’s opium output and the heroin epidemic have received considerable coverage in the US corporate press, these reports have focused on blaming local forces in Afghanistan—without acknowledgement that the US helped to establish these factions in order to combat Taliban forces. By pointing the finger elsewhere, the US news coverage of the epidemic has promoted negative views of Afghanistan and its governing forces, to direct attention away from US responsibility. By contrast, in 2014, Rolling Stone reported that the US government knew about, but did not interfere with increased opium production in Afghanistan, because doing so would have derailed its military mission.
Sources: Mnar Muhawesh, “US War In Afghanistan Is Fueling Global Heroin Epidemic & Enabling The Drug Trade,” MintPress News, July 21, 2016, http://www.mintpressnews.com/global-war-terror-created-heroin-epidemic-us-afghanistan/218662/.
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