Afghan Officials: US Strikes on ‘Drug Labs’ Accomplish Little

Destroying Small Labs Has Little Impact on Drug Trade

A little over a month after the US started bombing Taliban “drug labs” in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, at least 25 such laboratories have been claimed to have been destroyed, with the Pentagon announcing some $80 million worth of narcotics had been destroyed.

What does that amount to though? Not much, Afghan officials warn. And while they’re glad the strikes haven’t been as harmful to the civilian population as they’d initially feared, they also say the strikes on small labs are having little to no impact on the overall drug trade.

It’s a difficult problem, local officials have warned, because the Helmand economy is so heavily reliant on the drug trade, and while the Taliban’s interest in the region is because it can be a source of revenue, it would be difficult to seriously harm the drug trade militarily without doing massive damage to civilian livelihoods.

In singling out the drug labs as “Taliban-owned,” the US is trying to concentrate specifically on Taliban targets. At the same time, it’s not clear much of Helmand’s opium is processed there in the first place, with smuggling poppies the historic way of getting the drugs out of the country.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of