Yes, America’s job is done in Afghanistan. Only it’s not the job you thought it was:
The Taliban are a religious group and they burned the poppies or otherwise shut down poppy farms in Afghanistan. That’s why the number or hectares planted is so low in 2001. And the only group that rejoiced to see American troops were the poppy farmers whose incomes depend on the production of opium.
As Wikipedia notes:
Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since U.S. occupation started in 2001.
Indeed, a brand new report from the United Nations finds that opium production is at an all-time high.
Common Dreams notes:
The cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan—a nation under the military control of US and NATO forces for more than twelve years—has risen to an all-time high, according to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey released Wednesday by the United Nations.
According to the report, cultivation of poppy across the war-torn nation rose 36 per cent in 2013 and total opium production amounted to 5,500 tons, up by almost a half since 2012.
“This has never been witnessed before in the history of Afghanistan,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the outgoing leader of the Afghanistan office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which produced the report.
The U.S. military has allowed poppy cultivation to continue in order to appease farmers and government officials involved with the drug trade who might otherwise turn against the Afghan Karzai government in Kabul. Fueling both sides, in fact, the opium and heroin industry is both a product of the war and an essential source for continued conflict.
The opium trade supports tens of thousands of local farmers and fuels the Taliban, who taxed the crops to pay for weapons and supplies.
“If I was a farmer here I’d be growing poppies,” said Mike Courtney, who works the Afghan Stabilization Initiative which oversees U.S. efforts to persuade farmers to switch to other crops. “It’s a Catch-22. How do you win over the population and, at the same time, stop the drug trade?”
U.S. officials largely have given up on destroying Afghanistan’s poppy fields as the best way to combat the drug trade. Razing the fields was seen as counterproductive.
Instead, the American-led coalition in Afghanistan launched programs meant to encourage farmers to plant wheat, cotton and other alternative crops. They’ve had modest success.
The wheat-for-poppy projects have been undermined by corrupt Afghan officials who’ve given mediocre fertilizer and inferior seeds to farmers and have siphoned off money for themselves.
At the end of the day, poppy brings in more money most years than wheat or cotton does.
You can’t fight the iron laws of economics. Just like the Borg said, resistance is futile.