In what has become par for the course for US reports, the State Department today released a new report on the drug war in Afghanistan, claiming significant progress in the conflict. When looking at the actual data, however, it is entirely unclear how this conclusion was reached.
While lauding the Helmand Provincial government for “impressive political will” to combat drugs, the figures showed that opium production actually increased 61 percent in 2011 over the previous year, and confirmed that Helmand and the rest of southern Afghanistan remain the overwhelming center of that production.
Instead, the claims of progress appear to be based on the amount of poppy fields destroyed, which also increased by 65%, but since this was in line with overall production increase it is hard to see how this was a “gain,” let alone one that the State Department could claim is one of those great “fragile gains” that needs to be eagerly protected with massive increases of funding.
In another sign that the US is likely to escalate this aspect of the occupation of Afghanistan going forward, the report also warned of a dramatic increase in marijuana farming in southern Afghanistan, saying that it was becoming increasingly popular for farmers in the region.
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