​High fail: Afghan opium production rises as ex-Blackwater profits

Reuters / Goran Tomasevic

Opium production has been on the rise in Afghanistan over recent years despite US counternarcotics efforts. Infamous mercenary firm, formerly known as Blackwater, has creamed off $569 million from the Pentagon in this unsuccessful drive.

The money the company
received from US tax-payers was used for “training,
equipment, and logistical support”
for Afghan forces engaged
in counternarcotics operations. These agencies included the
“Afghan National Interdiction Unit, the Ministry of Interior,
and the Afghan Border Police,”
says a report from The
Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or
cited by the Guardian.

Formerly known as Blackwater, and later rebranded as Academi, the
notorious company has been the biggest beneficiary of
counternarcotics expenditure in the war-torn country.

However, the firm failed to eradicate opium production. In fact,
this has reached record highs since the beginning of US
occupation in 2001.

READ MORE: Record opium poppy cultivation has 5%
of Afghan pop. using heroin

Since the US toppled the Taliban in 2002, opium production in the
country has tripled. Afghanistan accounted for over 90 percent of
the world’s heroin market in 2014.

A UNAIDS report from 2014 said that there is a 7-percent increase in
land being cultivated despite the US spending over $7 billion on
counternarcotics programs.

READ MORE: America’s $7.6 billion war on Afghan drugs fails, opium
production peaks

The organization said poppy cultivation had expanded to 224,000
hectares in 2014, an increase of 7 percent. In contrast, a mere
74,000 hectares were being used to grow poppies in 2002, a year
after the Taliban regime was ousted from power.

Not surprisingly, with more land being used to grow poppies,
there has been an increase in opium production, the raw material
for heroin. Around 6,400 tons of opium were produced in 2014, a
hike of 17 percent over the previous year.

“In 2014, opium prices decreased in all regions of
Afghanistan. One probable reason for the decrease was an increase
in supply due to an increase in production,”
the survey

In December, the UN issued a separate report saying there had
been a 60-percent growth in Afghan land used for opium poppy
cultivation since 2011.

“Given the growth in opium poppy cultivation, it must be
assumed that the Taliban’s income from the illegal trade in
narcotics has remained an important factor in generating assets
for the group,”
the document said.

READ MORE: Blackwater guards convicted in 2007
Baghdad shooting

Blackwater was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince and grew
to become a private security giant with billions worth of
contracts from the US government. After a series of deadly
incidents dented the company’s reputation, Prince sold it.
Blackwater was renamed three times eventually merging with its
competitor Triple Canopy to form what is now called Constellis

The company gained worldwide notoriety for the substantial role
it played in the Iraq war as a contractor for the US government.
It was allegedly behind the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians
in Baghdad’s Nisour Square on September 16, 2007. Iraqi officials
say the attack was without justification and in violation of
deadly-force rules governing American security contractors at the
time. Between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater security staff
were involved in 195 shooting incidents. In 163 of those cases,
their personnel were found to have fired first.

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