Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report Examines U.S. Counter-Narcotics Strategy In Afghanistan
Afghanistan's Narco War: Breaking the Link between Drug Traffickers and Insurgents
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has issued a report titled, "Afghanistan's Narco War: Breaking the Link between Drug Traffickers and Insurgents", examining the new U.S. counter-narcotics strategy in Afghanistan. The Obama Administration has deemphasized opium poppy eradication and is focused for the first time on breaking the link between the narcotics trade and the Taliban. The aim is to deny money to the insurgency, which has been collecting millions of dollars a year in taxes and protection money from opium smugglers. The strategy reflects a new, interagency approach in which the military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies from the participating countries are working together to identify trafficking networks linked to the insurgency.
The report is based on research conducted by Committee staff in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Among its highlights:
* Senior military and civilian officials now believe the Taliban cannot be defeated and good government in Afghanistan cannot be established without cutting off the money generated by Afghanistan's opium industry, which supplies more than 90 percent of the world's heroin and generates an estimated $3 billion a year in profits.
* As part of the U.S. military expansion in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has assigned U.S. troops a lead role in trying to stop the flow of illicit drug profits that are bankrolling the Taliban and fueling the corruption that undermines the Afghan government. Simultaneously, the United States has set up an intelligence center to analyze the flow of drug money to the Taliban and corrupt Afghan officials, and a task force combining military, intelligence and law enforcement resources from several countries to pursue drug networks linked to the Taliban in southern Afghanistan awaits formal approval.
* On the civilian side, the administration is dramatically shifting gears on counter-narcotics by phasing out eradication efforts in favor of promoting alternative crops and agriculture development. For the first time, the United States will have an agriculture strategy for Afghanistan. While this new strategy is still being finalized, it will focus on efforts to increase agricultural productivity, regenerate the agribusiness sector, rehabilitate watersheds and irrigation systems, and build capacity in the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock.
"Just this weekend, General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. top military commander in Afghanistan, said in an interview that the Taliban are gaining strength and that the war is at a decisive moment," said Senator John Kerry (D-MA.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "This report takes a close look at the Administration's new counter-narcotics strategy and I hope that it will encourage a renewed national debate on the risk and rewards associated with our increasing commitment to the war in Afghanistan."