MOSCOW, October 21 (RIA Novosti) – Despite US counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan amounting to $7.6 billion, opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated in a special report released last Tuesday.
"Despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government"s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013," Special Inspector General John Sopko said in the report.
In the report, Sopko specifically addressed US senior officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, calling on them to reconsider their departments" policies on Afghanistan in this respect.
"Given the severity of the opium problem and its potential to undermine U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, I strongly suggest that your departments consider the trends in opium cultivation and the effectiveness of past counternarcotics efforts when planning future initiatives," John Sopko urged.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), over 90 percent of all illicit opium production comes from Afghanistan. The total area of opium poppy cultivation constituted 209,000 hectares in 2013, which is a 36 percent increase compared to 2012 levels, with it being possible that Afghan opium production could increase further.
Afghanistan has seen an increase in opium poppy cultivation since the 1990s, with this trend rapidly accelerating after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, the UNODC report on illicit drug trends in Afghanistan says, stressing that over 60 percent of opium grown in Afghanistan is converted into heroin or morphine before export.