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World The war on drugs in Afghanistan 'has just been a total failure,' the US's top watchdog there says

23:17  05 december  2019
23:17  05 december  2019 Source:   msn.com

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“ We are now 17 years into the endless war in Afghanistan . Reports on US funds being improperly used on some projects for Afghanistan have been coming for years. A year later, another report said that the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Pentagon wasted another million on an

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The US-led war in Afghanistan turned 18 in October, but almost two decades of fighting and rebuilding appear to have yielded little progress.

Speaking at the Wilson Center last month, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan reconstruction, John F Sopko, said the counternarcotics effort in Afghanistan, for example, has been "a total failure".

a group of people in a field with a mountain in the background © Parwiz Parwiz/REUTERS The US Drug Enforcement Administration has "done a yeoman's task there" and the special Afghan units they've trained have "made wonderful seizures" Mr Sopko said.

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The United States government has decided to either classify or do away with “almost every” metric for success or failure in Afghanistan , John Sopko Despite nearly billion in American taxpayer funds devoted to counternarcotics in Afghanistan since the war began in October 2001, the South Asian

Rod Nordland has been reporting on Afghanistan ’ s travails since well before the American-led The first is that messy war in which, just in the past week, more than 40 high school students were But in Afghanistan , where most of the population has known only war, narratives are often total

"The Afghans, with the cooperation of the DEA, have actually seized more drugs in Afghanistan than I believe we in the United States have seized on the Mexican border." 

Nevertheless, "the amount seized over ... I think it's the last 10 years still is less than 5% of the crop that was grown last year - 10 years of seizures, less than 5%."

"So you're never going to work your way out of that by just seizures alone," he said.

"That's an area where we definitely have seen no improvement. If anything, I think we've probably gone back." 

a man cutting a cake © REUTERS/Parwiz The Taliban banned opium in 2000, leaving many farmers destitute but causing drug production to hit a historic low in 2001, when the US invaded Afghanistan.

The invasion and collapse of governing institutions opened up a vacuum that allowed cultivation to increase, leading to more robust counter-drug efforts by the US-led coalition.

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The war on drugs in the United States has been a failure that has ruined lives, filled prisons and cost a fortune. It started during the Nixon administration with the idea that, because drugs are bad for people, they should be difficult to obtain. As a result, it became a war on supply.

Production levelled off in 2009 and 2010, but has steadily risen since 2011.

a screenshot of a cell phone © UNODC Afghan opium survey 2018 According to a 2018 SIGAR report, "from 2013 to 2016, drug production continued at or near the highest levels ever consistently seen in Afghanistan".

The report also found the US allotted about $8.62 billion to fight drugs in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2017. 

In 2018, opium cultivation covered 263,000 hectares in Afghanistan, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

That was down from 328,000 hectares in 2017 but still more than any other year since 1994.

The broader problem of impunity also affects anti-drug efforts.

"We created a counternarcotics court to handle the narcotics issues," Mr Sopko said.

"They try a lot of people, but they try the poor slob who happens to be a the scene of the crime and not the big fish."

Improvements, but not without caveats

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The figures are just some of the discouraging findings in the latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the government’ s independent watchdog of the Afghanistan war. The report is the fifth in a series of “lessons learned” evaluations and focuses on

WASHINGTON — The watchdog charged with tracking government spending in Afghanistan has released its first estimate of the total amount of And the .3 billion spent to stem the Afghan drug trade has done very little to stop the "production and exportation of illicit drugs ," according to SIGAR

  The war on drugs in Afghanistan 'has just been a total failure,' the US's top watchdog there says © Mohammad Ismail/Reuters Mr Sopko said there had been progress in other development efforts, but each came with downsides. 

"Education has improved, so our work in that area has helped. Whether all the money was spent wisely, I don't know," Mr Sopko said.

"The number of kids going to school has improved over time. How much we can say is related to US programs vs the fact that other donors were involved, we can't tell."

"Healthcare has improved, particularly maternal healthcare ... that's mainly been in the major cities."

According to Mr Sopko, the Afghan military has improved, although it was hard to pinpoint by how much, "because our government no longer collects data on indica of improvements, which we find a little disconcerting."

"For years, they had different ways to rate the improvements in the military, and every time we went to audit, our military would change the goalposts, and after a while, they just stopped collecting the data," he said. 

a large air plane on a runway at an airport © Video by Staff Sgt. Robert Kingery/Released Mr Sopko said the Afghan Air Force and Afghan Special Forces have "improved dramatically" with US assistance.

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It says Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops of opium poppies. Opium brought in billion in Since 2002, the chief factors that appear to have caused temporary drops in poppy production were "In our opinion, the failure to reduce poppy cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of

" We are now 17 years into the endless war in Afghanistan . This report barely scratches the Reports on US funds being improperly used on some projects for Afghanistan have been coming for years. A year later, another report said that the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Pentagon wasted

But US forces still appear to be carrying out most of the air transport and strikes on insurgents. 

The Afghan military has also failed to train enough air controllers and liaisons, according to a Defense Department Inspector General report, which found that just 2.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent of airstrikes by Afghan aircraft involved tactical Afghan air controllers.

"We're always cautious when US government agencies claim dramatic increases due to their programs," Mr Sopko said.

"There's usually not a tie between them."

Corruption, a national security issue

Ashraf Ghani, Donald Trump are posing for a picture © Alex Brandon / AP According to Mr Sopko, corruption, particularly in a country like Afghanisatn "is a national security issue".

"Because one of the best ways for the Taliban to recruit is to [tell Afghans to] look at all the corrupt government officials," he said. 

Mr Sopko complimented the anti-corruption efforts of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the country's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, but said there had been backsliding.

"It's hard for us to comprehend what it's like when you are the President or senior official and you appoint somebody as a minister, and even though that minister may be honest everybody in his chain of command is on the take," he said.

While the Afghan government is good at "checking boxes," he said it fell short on other important measures.

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The drugs were formerly smuggled out of Afghanistan in a syrup form, which was easier to detect by authorities. The drug producers have begun refining large President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan said last year that "without drugs , this war would have been long over," Foreign Policy reported.

The war on drugs turned out to be a complete failure . Caught between these extremes, society has been forced to adapt to a state of permanent violence. Decriminalizing drug use will not fix a deeply rooted problem in this country, but it will allow Mexicans to differentiate between drugs and the war

These include the number of indictments, the number of arrests, or the amount of money seized. 

Mr Sopko cited as an example the creation of a special anti-corruption force, with dedicated police, prosecutors, and judges.

At the suggestion of the US, the Afghans polygraphed those officials, but failed to terminate those who failed.

After some prompting, they removed the officials who failed but then didn't replace them.

a group of people standing in front of a large crowd of people:    Sources:    Business Insider,    The New York Times,    Reuters,    Politico © Alex Brandon / AP

Sources: Business Insider, The New York Times, Reuters, Politico

 When asked about privatization and the role of contractors, Mr Sopko chided the US Corps of Engineers, which he said had been "horrendous in not holding contractors' feet to the fire" for mistakes and other problems with their projects. 

A particular problem with Afghan contractors has been the companies that only exist on paper.

"We're currently investigating one company that does purchasing of gas for us," Mr Sopko said.

"Fuel is liquid gold, and over 50 per cent of the fuel we buy for the Afghans is stolen or doesn't exist, and we're looking at one company and ... this individual has about 200 to 300 companies - paper companies.

"So when we shut him down in this name, he opens up in another name, and we've had a big problem with that."

Mr Sopko said his agency has urged the US and other donors not to focus on how much money was given to support reconstruction in Afghanistan, but rather on where it goes and how it's used.

"If we don't, you might as well just pile up all of that money in Massoud Circle and burn it," he said.

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